About me: I am a health psychologist living in Montreal, Canada and provide mental health services (psychotherapy) to N'Djamena, Chad through Skype.
Origins of the project: The idea has been circling in my mind for several years but the project is only a few months old. It has grown quickly and the service is in high demand.
About the project: The concept is simple. Every weekend I sit in front of my computer and talk to people on the other end. I receive supervision by a trans-cultural psychiatrist when I need a consult for a patient. The project requires someone in N'Djamena to also offer services (an office, a computer, internet connection) which so far have gone unpaid. This person is also offering administrative services such as coordinating appointments between patients and me, accepting cancellations, follow-ups etc. I am also in touch with a physician in N'Djamena in case I need a patient to be seen by a doctor if there is a need for medication. Here, there is a physician who is temporarily volunteering as a medical advisor for my work. I go to her with questions about medication which I then pass on to the physician in Chad who finds an equivalent locally available medication to prescribe or recommend to patients if deemed necessary. Although I have not yet performed a formal evaluation of the work, the feedback is very positive. The therapy sessions are helpful and have made a difference.Challenges: The problems I've encountered so far are rather minor. The major one is when their electricity is cut-off in the middle of a session which happens frequently. The other problem is bad connection when voice is lost, delayed, difficult to hear, with frequent interruptions in the session. Other minor problems include lack of privacy for the patients who usually come with their family in tow including children and babies. Also heat waves which I'm told interfere with the WI FI connection. Another problem, likely cultural, is patients' lack of punctuality. None of these problems have been very serious and the work continues. There is something about care provided through distance that patients find special and resonating. It seems to offer something above and beyond the therapy itself and portray considerate care, concern, and empathy. I believe this adds to patients' potential for healing. I feel privileged to be able to provide this assistance, to have my patient's trust despite the cultural differences, and to be able to stand beside another human being along their journey to health.
Funding: This project is currently funded by me (personal funds). My work is pro bono. A few other professionals have shown interest in joining me to provide free psychotherapy services. I would like to find sources of funding to provide some compensation to those volunteering their time and equipment in Chad, and to cover, at least partially, their internet fees, and to provide some supplies.
Invitation: If you are a French speaker and would like to work with me and provide psychotherapy to Chad I would welcome an email. If you are interested in establishing a virtual clinic to offer similar services I would be very happy to hear from you.
Request: If you know of sources of funding that could help with this work I would appreciate hearing from you.