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Is online counselling really more effective than regular counselling?
Yes, providing online therapy might just be a more effective treatment for anxiety and depression than usual primary care, says breakthrough research.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in the US studied 704 depressed and anxious patients who were between 18 to 75 years.They showed that providing an online computerized cognitive behavioural therapy (CCBT) programme both alone and in combination with Internet Support Groups (ISG) provided better outcomes for patients.
The participants were randomly assigned into one of three groups: 1) care manager-guided access to the eight-session Beating the Blues CCBT programme; 2) care manager-guided access to both the CCBT programme and a password-protected ISG that patients could access 24/7 via smartphone or desktop computer; or 3) usual behavioural health care from their primary care physician.
Over the six-month period, 83 % of patients assigned to CCBT started the programme, and they completed an average of 5.3 sessions.
77 % of patients assigned to the ISG logged into the site at least once, and 46 % provided one or more posts or comments.
Six months later, those patients assigned to CCBT reported noteworthy developments in their mood and anxiety symptoms and the more CCBT sessions patients completed, the greater the improvement in mood and anxiety symptoms.
Although patients assigned to both CCBT and ISG had similar overall developments in mood and anxiety symptoms compared to patients assigned to only CCBT, a secondary analysis showed those who engaged more with the ISG tended to experience greater developments in symptoms.
“Our study findings have important implications for transforming the way mental health care is delivered,” said Bruce L Rollman, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “
Providing depressed and anxious patients with access to these emerging technologies may be an ideal method to deliver effective mental health treatment, especially to those who live in areas with limited access to care resources or who have transportation difficulties or work/home obligations that make in-person counselling difficult to obtain,” he said.