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Online CBT for Depression

answered 01:18 PM EST, Wed August 10, 2011
Are online CBT depression programs worth doing? The kind that are like an interactive course but that don’t offer any kind of direct counseling? I am considering doing one and the price is right (free) but I don’t want to waste my time on it if it doesn’t work.

Art Matthews Says...

If you are having severe symptoms of depression including suicidal thoughts, substance abuse/misuse and high risk-taking behaviors, call 911, go to a local hospital Emergency Room or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).*

If this site is truly free and based on sound CBT theory, there's little reason not to at least try.  What would you be doing with that time anyway?  But my Daddy always said, "If you get something for nuthin, you get what you paid for."  Arguably, that was before the creation of the internet and the warehousing of vast stores of information became accessible to virtually anyone with a computer.

Obviously I can't review the particular program you are considering since I don't know what it is, but that being said any self-help book or program that is truly based on CBT can be an effective way to help yourself, even when it's free.  But... it is only as good as the information it was based on, your understanding of how to implement it and your ability to motivate and monitor yourself as you follow the program.  It's a lot like trying to lose weight by reading a diet book: the information contained in most diet books is accurate and, when followed, can yield results; but it's not sure fire if:

  1. You have a medical condition that affects your weight (such as a thyroid disorder) and isn't about what you're eating
  2. You can't keep yourself motivated to stay on a restricted diet and you "fall off the wagon"
  3. You misunderstand something in the book and don't have some way to catch your mistake and correct it

I suggest you consider getting a thorough physical that includes certain blood tests to pick up organic conditions affecting mood and anxiety (like a TSH/T3/T4 Thyroid Panel) and working with a therapist who is has a reduced or sliding scale fee and is willing to work with you through this self-help site (pending their approval of the content, of course).  You may find that you can cut back on the number or frequency of visits and have the help you need at hand to keep yourself on track.  Spending the money now to get effective help may save you much more in increased health care costs, lost jobs, and other complications of depression.

If it were so easy to make such life changes by reading a book or following an outline of steps online, I and tens of thousands of mental health practitioners would be out of a job; however, it can be done.  Do your research and ask yourself, "Am I up to handling this task on my own?  How am I going to handle things when I feel overwhelmed?"  Here is one self-help website that has had a lot of good buzz: www.moodgym.org

Commit to your goal and good luck!

* People outside the US can locate their national crisis line number using www.befrienders.org and selecting their country from the drop down list.

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Page last updated Aug 10, 2011

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