Online Therapy Not Helpful in Fighting Depression
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of talk therapy, has long been recognized as one of the best treatments for depression. But new research suggests that the online version of the therapy offers little or no benefit.
Compared to traditional talk therapy where the patient and therapist meet face to face, computerized cognitive behavioral therapy is delivered by an interactive computer program. There has been growing interest in (cCBT) as a “lower intensity” treatment for mild to moderate depression, but there was little evidence of how effective cCBT was in a primary care setting.
So researchers at the University of York in the U.K. tested the primary cCBT program, Beating the Blues, which was created by the UK’s National Health Service. This recommended therapy program included eight weekly interactive sessions for the treatment of mild to moderate depression.
In a randomized trial, 691 patients were divided into three types of treatment groups: standard primary care, standard primary care with the Beating the Blues program, or standard primary care with MoodGYM - a free to use cCBT program. For each group, patients were similar in age, sex, education, severity and duration of depression, and antidepressant use.
Compared to standard primary care, patients in both cCBT groups showed little or no significant improvement in their condition. After four months, around 44 percent of the standard care group, 50 percent of the Beating the Blues group and 49 percent of the MoodGYM group remained depressed.
Researchers say the results are most likely due to low engagement. In other words, people seemed to lose interest in engaging with the computer program and had difficulty motivating themselves to log on when they felt depressed.