Supporting our sector’s ongoing adoption of virtual care with evidence-based tools and resources is one of our strategic priorities.

Why virtual care matters

The demand for virtual mental health services was already on the rise before the pandemic made them a necessity. Technology has the potential to address many of Ontario’s access-to-care issues, including wait times, culture and language, stigma, geography and health literacy.

Quality guideline for virtual walk-in services

At the beginning of 2020, we assembled an advisory committee of experts to co-develop a quality guideline for virtual walk-in services in the child and youth mental health and addictions sector. The arrival of the pandemic made this work much timelier as research limitations and the rapid transition to virtual care made it challenging to plan and implement evidence-based practices and policies as quickly as they were needed. Rooted in implementation science, the guideline discusses key implementation drivers, and provides both a checklist of key steps and considerations as well as a list of recommended further readings.

Evaluation of virtual care

As agencies throughout the province shifted to deliver care using a range of technologies early in the pandemic, we set out on an evaluation project with Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) to learn about the process of implementing virtual care and the impacts on clients and service providers. Our goal was to understand what worked well and identify areas for improvement to help service providers continue to add or improve virtual mental health service options for the children, young people and families they serve. Check out the resources that resulted from this work:

Additional resources

We’re supporting the child and youth mental health and addictions sector’s ongoing efforts to plan, deliver and evaluate quality virtual care by generating relevant evidence summaries and webinars.

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Evidence summaries

Virtual group therapy

As organizations in Ontario’s community-based child and youth mental health and addictions sector continue to integrate virtual care options into their suite of services, many are excited by the opportunities presented by virtual group therapy. There are, however, several barriers that prevent widespread uptake, including limited research on implementation and effectiveness. This document summarizes evidence on how to deliver virtual group therapy for children and young people with mental health challenges and how to deal with common challenges.

Read the evidence summary

Evaluating and improving e-mental health services

Evaluating virtual care offerings is crucial to ensure high-quality care and to plan for longer-term implementation of e-mental health services. Understanding what has worked well, what challenges have presented, and how they have been addressed will enable the sector to take deliberate steps to add or improve virtual care options for families, post-pandemic. This document presents guidelines to help agencies evaluate the virtual care services they provide.

Read the evidence summary

Internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy

Internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT) is a structured form of psychotherapy in which clients receive psychological support through email or online modules. This document examines whether iCBT is an effective alternative or complement to traditional in-person services, what the evidence says about the effectiveness and limitations of iCBT and considerations for implementing iCBT. 

Read the evidence summary 

Supporting virtual teams and remote clinical supervision

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the way community-based child and youth mental health and addictions agencies provide support to families. Many agencies are now delivering professional services through virtual visits and telephone, having rapidly transitioned to using online platforms and tools that allow service providers to work from home. This sudden adjustment to a new way of working brings novel challenges for supervisors and teams. This document offers key considerations for supervisors supporting virtual teams and for remote clinical supervision as well as a short list of links for additional reading. Note: The content and resources shared in this document weren’t collected through an exhaustive search or systematic review and reflect information available at the time of writing.

Read the evidence summary

Additional evidence summaries


Three approaches to ongoing monitoring and evaluation

Following our webinar summarizing the findings of the province-wide evaluation of our sector’s transition to virtual care, this webinar featured panelists sharing three different approaches to the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of virtual care in child and youth mental health. This includes a developmental evaluation and two mixed-method evaluations looking at client and caregiver perceptions, in one case, and client and staff surveys in the other.

Watch the webinar recording

Virtual realities: Responding to complex child and youth mental health needs during a pandemic

Hear from clinical experts with a long history of responding to the complex mental health needs of children and young people. Learn from their experiences about applying typical risk assessment and management skills in a virtual setting and ensuring safe and equitable virtual care while encountering increasing levels of mental health problems and high-risk situations.

Watch the webinar recording

Evaluation of virtual care

We joined forces with Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) to present a webinar outlining a province-wide evaluation of virtual care conducted between April and September 2020. Throughout the webinar we discussed what was working well, what wasn’t and how agencies and service providers can improve virtual services going forward.

Watch the webinar recording

Managing high-risk situations in virtual care

In this webinar, presented in collaboration with School Mental Health Ontario and Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario, a panel of experienced virtual care clinicians answered questions about how best to manage high-risk, challenging scenarios (like family violence or suicidal behaviour) virtually. This includes assessing and managing risky situations, considerations for creating appropriate pathways to address high-risk situations and clinician self-care.

Virtual care 101 for child and youth mental health

This webinar was offered in partnership with School Mental Health Ontario as an introduction to virtual mental health care. It focused on responding to stakeholder questions in five key areas: getting ready to deliver virtual care; ethics, privacy and legal considerations when delivering virtual care; engaging with clients in virtual care; clinical considerations (including risk assessment); and generally increasing comfort and troubleshooting issues when delivering virtual care.

Peer-reviewed publications

Implementation Research and Practice, October 2021

Article title: Evaluating the sector-wide implementation of virtual child and youth mental health services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: Perspectives from service providers, agency leaders and clients

Read the article

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic prompted an abrupt shift in the delivery of community-based child and youth mental health services as virtual care was rapidly adopted. The objective of this study was to evaluate the sector-wide transition to virtual care across Ontario, with a focus on implementation facilitators and barriers. This research provides a blueprint for evaluations of the implementation of virtual mental health services, particularly in a child/youth context. Virtual care is a viable way to deliver mental health services, however, equity, accessibility, and appropriateness need to be addressed to ensure services are effective for children, youth, and their families.