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Australian Researchers Say That Internet Therapy for Depression Works as Well as In-Person Counseling

posted 03:04 AM EST, Tue June 23, 2009
Australian Researchers Say That Internet Therapy for Depression Works as Well as In-Person Counseling © Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt

An Australian randomized control study that evaluated internet based therapy for depression reveals that net-based counseling works about as well as in-person therapy.

Mental health professionals have seen the promise of internet based therapies for conditions such as social phobia and anxiety disorders, but most considered that for tougher to treat conditions, like low-motivation depression, in-person therapy was irreplaceable. A new Australian research study suggests otherwise.

Dr. Nick Titov and Professor Gavin Andrews, out of the University of New South Wales in Australia, ran a research study to assess the efficacy of internet based therapy for depression, randomly assigning 45 study participants to the internet based therapy program, or to a control group.

Those that received the 8 weeks of internet based therapies completed weekly homework assignments, participated in an online forum with other study subjects and received, on average, 8 individualized emails from a clinical psychologist. In total, therapists spent an average of just 111 minutes in direct contact with each study subject - subjects receiving far less direct clinical contact than in comparable offline therapeutic programs.

At the end of the 8 week net therapy program, 34% of subjects no longer met the diagnostic criteria for depression and 82% reported feeling either very satisfied or mostly satisfied with their involvement with the net based therapy the program.

These results compares similarly to trials conducted on internet based therapies for other mental health conditions.

Professor Andrews commented on the positive outcome, saying, "The results will come as a surprise to many people who believed Internet-based programs wouldn't work in treating depression."

The ability to deliver effective interventions for mental health conditions like depression over the internet may increase the percentages that get treatment. Current barriers to treatment can include:

  • Perceiving a stigma associated with visits to a psychologist of psychiatrist
  • The higher costs of in person treatment
  • The difficulty in getting off work for treatment during business hours
  • Finding an appropriate local therapist (this can be very difficult or even impossible in remote or rural areas)

Study subjects participated in the online forum at all hours of the day, even after midnight, emphasizing the convenience and flexibility of therapy without time constraints.

Visit online depression therapy to see the therapeutic program used in the study.

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