Online Therapy

October 18, 2016

Online Therapy

The following extract is from the CNN’s article “Therapy online:Good as face to face” by Elizabeth Landau , CNN journalist expert in Health.

Internet Based Therapy

Computer-based therapy ( or Online Therapy ) has come a long way since ELIZA, a 1960s computer program designed to emulate (and parody) a therapist. Today, with the Internet, people can use the instant message format to communicate with real therapists fro their home.

Online Therapy - Francesca Eleuteri Psychologist

Why Online Therapy?

A new study in The Lancet suggests that real-time chat therapy with a psychotherapist is successful in helping people with depression.

Participants were randomly assigned to either receive online cognitive behavioral therapy in addition to usual physician care — which may include antidepressant medication — or to continue their usual care and be placed on a waiting list. The intervention consisted of up to 10 55-minute sessions, five of which were expected to be completed by the four-month follow-up.

Of the 113 people who did online therapy, 38 percent recovered from depression after four months, compared with 24 percent of people in the control group. The benefits were maintained at eight months, with 42 percent of the online therapy group and 26 percent of the control group having recovered.

The level of benefit shown in the study is about the same as could be expected from traditional therapy, although the researchers did not compare the two as part of the experiment, said Dr. Gregory Simon, a psychiatrist and researcher at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, Washington, who wrote the editorial that accompanied the study.

Experts say the Internet has enormous potential for psychotherapy, especially for reaching people who do not have access to in-person care.

“This is exactly the kind of study that we need to show that computerized and Internet-based psychotherapy can be effective, but that’s a far cry from saying that this is going to replace psychotherapy,” said Marlene Maheu, a psychologist in private practice in San Diego, California.

Participants in the trial had already been screened by therapists before engaging in chat-based therapy, and had taken a written test to measure how depressed they were.

by Elizabeth Landau

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Online Therapy was slightly more effective at treating depression than face-to-face Therapy

The effects of online psychotherapy outlasted the results of face-to-face counseling

A University of Zurich study divided a group of 62 patients in half and found that depression was eased in 53 percent of those given online therapy, compared to 50 percent who had in-person counseling. Three months after completing the study, 57 percent of online patients showed no signs of depression compared to 42 percent with conventional therapy.

— Journal of Affective Disorders, 2013

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Patients who chose online therapy saw hospital visits drop significantly

Online therapy significantly lowered the number of hospital visits among veterans.

In a four-year Johns Hopkins study that included close to 100,000 veterans, the number of days that patients were hospitalized dropped by 25 percent if they chose online therapy. This is slightly higher than the number of hospital visits experienced by patients who used face-to-face therapy.

— Psychiatric Services, April 2012

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Five hundred patients assigned to either live video therapy or in-person care showed equal rates of recovery

A Canadian study shows that online therapy delivers the same satisfaction at slightly less the cost.

Patients in Ontario, Canada were assigned to face-to-face or live video therapy and experienced statistically the same clinical outcome and level of patient satisfaction. The only difference was that the cost of providing the online service was 10% less per patient.

— American Psychiatric Association, 2007

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Online cognitive behavioral therapy helped reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder with effects that lasted until well after the treatment had ended

Online therapy may be an efficient way to provide PTSD treatment to a large group of people.

A pilot study compared the effectiveness of Online CBT and in-person supportive therapy in 45 Defense service members suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the September 11th attack. After eight weeks those receiving online therapy showed greater improvement. Six months after their first meeting those who had received online therapy continued to show improvement, in direct contrast to the in-person group.

— American Journal of Psychiatry, November 2007


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