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Dr. Elena Touroni

Dr. Elena Touroni

Dr. Touroni is a consultant counselling psychologist and clinical director of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, a private psychiatry and therapy clinic based in London, and soon to be opening a new clinic in Dubai. She is trained in several specialist therapies including Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Schema Therapy, and Cognitive Analytic Therapy. Dr Touroni worked as the Head of Service in an NHS Personality Disorder Service and is highly experienced in working with complex service-users and designing and developing clinical services. She led on changes in The Chelsea Psychology Clinic during the pandemic and has a wealth of knowledge in delivering therapeutic services virtually to a wide range of service-users, including those who have a diagnosis of personality disorder.
She is trained in several specialist therapeutic approaches such as schema therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based approaches and Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT). As well as holding a variety of NHS positions, Dr. Touroni is the co-founder of a private practice in Central London that has been a provider of psychological therapy for all common emotional difficulties including personality disorder since 2002. She is the founder and one of two directors of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic.

Enhancing engagement in virtual therapy with people who have a diagnosis of personality disorder.

Background: Drop-out rates from evidence-based interventions for people with a diagnosis of personality disorder (PD) are high. The COVID-19 pandemic has likely exacerbated barriers to engagement with the introduction of virtual working. Virtual therapy has a good evidence-base for Axis I disorders, but limited research for Axis II disorders.

Aims: To investigate facilitators and barriers to engagement in a Tier 3 PD service virtual group programme.

Method: A virtual group programme was developed in collaboration with service members, and analysed members' attendance rates over a 5-month period pre- and post-COVID-19. Thematic analysis of semi-structured telephone interviews with 38 members is reported, describing their experience of the virtual group programme.

Results: Attendance rates were significantly higher pre-COVID (72%) than post-COVID (50%). Thematic analysis highlighted key barriers to attendance were: practical issues, low motivation, challenges of working in a group online and feeling triggered at home. Main promoters of engagement were: feeling valued, continued sense of connection and maintaining focus on recovery.

Discussion: The results suggest that the pandemic has exacerbated relational and practical barriers to engagement in a Tier 3 PD service. Ways of enhancing engagement are discussed, as well as preliminary recommendation for services offering virtual therapy to people with a diagnosis of PD.

Keywords: COVID-19; attendance; engagement; group therapy; online therapy; personality disorder; virtual working.

Implications: We will discuss implications for working with people who have a diagnosis of PD virtually in both group and individual therapy.

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