Online therapy effective at treating people with severe depression, researchers reveal

Internet therapy is an effective treatment for people with severe depression and other mental health disorders, a study has revealed.

Scientists from the Indiana University set out to discover how online therapy compared to traditional person-to-person cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

The study, however, is the first to look at the effectiveness of Internet-based therapy for people with severe depression.

The researchers studied a range of apps and web platforms designed to provide CBT online, which works by changing thought patterns and behaviour to alleviate the effects of certain mental health disorders.

Commenting on the report, lead author Lorenzo Lorenzo-Luaces said: “Before this study, I thought past studies were probably focused on people with very mild depression, those who did not have other mental health problems and were at low risk for suicide.

“To my surprise, that was not the case. The science suggests that these apps and platforms can help a large number of people.”

He added that given the rise in the number of people attempting to access mental health therapy, online treatment could be an effective and obvious solution.

“Close to one in four people meet the criteria for major depressive disorder,” said Dr Lorenzo-Luaces.

“If you include people with minor depression or who have been depressed for a week or a month with a few symptoms, the number grows, exceeding the number of psychologists who can serve them.”

The researchers concluded that apps and platforms which offer genuine CBT sessions with guidance are the most effective at providing treatment.

They also note that some apps could help to treat people who live in remote locations, cannot leave the confines of their house, or for those who travel frequently.

However, one clinical psychologist warns that online-based therapy will simply not work for everyone.

Dr Genevieve von Lob said: “The root causes of why someone has depression varies so much between individuals and I believe these factors provide more insight into where the real change needs to occur – an app (based on CBT) cannot solve this for us.”


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