Telephone-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Post-Operative Bariatric Surgery Patients to Manage COVID‑19 Pandemic Related Mental Health and Distress (TELE-BARICARE): A Randomized Controlled Trial to Determine Effectiveness and Adaptation for Marginalized Populations
Background: Over 60% of Canadians are overweight or obese and more than half have a history of a mental illness. The COVID‑19 pandemic has made it difficult for people living with obesity to manage their weight even after undergoing bariatric surgery. These difficulties in combination with the stress of the pandemic can cause significant declines in mental health and well-being. Psychotherapy (“talk therapy”) has been shown to be effective in helping to reduce mental health and disordered eating symptoms in patients managing obesity; however, there is limited data in the context of COVID-19. Objective: This study will examine whether providing a convenient and accessible telephone-based psychotherapy during and potentially after the COVID‑19 pandemic will lead to better mental health and disordered eating related outcomes in patients managing obesity after weight loss surgery. Hypothesis: Relative to the control group, those receiving psychotherapy will have lower mental health distress and eating disorder symptoms. Methods: Participants recruited from 4 weight loss surgery programs across Ontario will be randomly assigned to one of two groups: 1) Control (7 weekly non-structured check-in emails and access to online COVID‑19 related mental health resources) or 2) Tele-CBT (a 7-session telephone-based cognitive behavioural therapy [a type of “talk therapy”] intervention focused on developing coping skills and specifically designed for weight loss surgery patients). Participants will complete measures of mental health distress, eating behaviours and a psychological distress scale prior to and immediately following the intervention. Implications: If Tele-CBT is found to improve post-pandemic mental health distress and eating behaviours, it could be routinely offered to patients with other chronic medical conditions as a resource to help manage psychological distress and mental health concerns emerging during and after the COVID‑19 pandemic.