Telepsychotherapy for the Treatment of Trichotillomania: A Randomized Controlled Trial


Eric B. Lee


Trichotillomania is defined as recurrent pulling of one’s hair that results in distress and negative effects on general functioning and quality of life. Estimates of trichotillomania lifetime prevalence generally range from approximately 1% to 3% and it is likely as common as disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and agoraphobia. Yet, quality treatment for trichotillomania is often difficult to find as many mental health professionals are uninformed about the disorder and its treatment. Moreover, mental health services in general are inaccessible to many with estimates suggesting that 96.5 million people do not have access to adequate services. The use of telepsychology has been an effective method for disseminating treatment services for a variety of mental health conditions. However, no research has examined the effectiveness of telepsychology to treat trichotillomania.

The current study reports the results of a randomized clinical trial of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Enhanced Behavior Therapy for the treatment of trichotillomania delivered by way of telepsychology. The study compared an active treatment condition (n = 12) to a waitlist control condition (n = 10). Results showed significant reductions in hair pulling severity from pre- to post-treatment compared to the waitlist condition.

Participants in the waitlist condition received the same treatment as participants in the treatment condition following the waitlist period. All participants were then combined to examine overall treatment effects from pre-treatment to a 12-week follow-up. The effect of treatment on hair pulling severity was still significant at follow-up, however the effect was not as strong as at post-treatment. Conversely, the effect on quality of life was maintained and even increased following post-treatment. Additional measures of psychological flexibility, perceived shame, and valued action also saw significant changes from pre-treatment to follow-up. The findings demonstrate that telepsychology is a viable option to disseminate treatment for trichotillomania. Implications, limitations, and future research directions are discussed.

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