By On August 21st, 2009

Real-time chat therapy proves successful

According to a study recently published online in the Lancet, internet cognitive behavioral therapy could well be successful for treating depression. The randomized trial followed patients who participated in real-time online therapy via instant messaging. At a four month follow up 38% of participants in the study who had received online therapy had recovered from depressive symptoms; this is compared to 24% of those in a control group. At eight months, 42% of those that had received online cognitive behavioral therapy still reported remission of their depressive symptoms as opposed to 26% in a control group.

A variety of studies have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy must not of necessity be delivered in a face-to-face setting. For instance, some studies have shown the validity of cognitive behavioral therapy over the phone. However, many are concerned about the use of online therapy due to previous studies that showed self-help computer programs based on cognitive behavioral principles to be lacking in effectiveness. This, however, does not appear to be the case when a therapist is involved and the session is done in real-time.

Additionally, there has been growing anxiety about the increased use of antidepressants as well as a lack of availability of psychotherapy. Online therapy, while it is perhaps not ideal, could broaden access to treatment. This could be particularly advantageous for individuals who live in remote or rural areas.

The authors of the study commented on the findings, saying, “This approach could enhance metacognitive awareness, a term applied to changing the patient’s relationship with negative thoughts and feelings, rather than changing their belief in the content of negative thoughts… traditional therapists might be horrified by the prospect of an overseas cognitive-behavioral call center or live-chat center, available whenever patients choose. But the expectations of healthcare providers are not the same as evidence.” Click here to read a study from Medpage Today that discusses the study’s findings more.

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