Online CBT Beneficial for Depression, Anxiety

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Online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), along with clinical care, has demonstrated benefits to people with emotional distress from anxiety and depression, according to a review in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

To examine the effectiveness of internet-delivered CBT, David Gratzer, MD, and attending psychiatrist, and Faiza Khalid-Khan, a social worker and Director of Mental Health, The Scarborough Hospital, Toronto, reviewed recent studies on the use of smart phones and tablets for mental illness.

They found that in some studies, patients who participated in CBT via the internet had better outcomes than the control group and equal or better outcomes compared with those who participated in traditional in-person CBT. These outcomes were found in patients with depression and physical illnesses such as multiple sclerosis or cancer.

"There is as much evidence for cognitive behavioral therapy as there is for medications to treat mild and moderate depression, as well as evidence that they have a synergistic effect," said Dr. Gratzer. "In other words, for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians struggling with depression, internet-assisted cognitive-behavioral therapy offers a cost-effective and empowering way of accessing an important treatment."

For patients with access to a computer, online CBT has the advantage of being accessible to patients at any time, and allows shy patients who are reluctant to speak to a healthcare professional to get help. It is also a cost-effective way for clinicians to help treat more patients efficiently.

The researchers note that more research is needed to determine the ideal demographic for this therapy, and that there are challenges integrating it into clinical practice.

However, the therapy is not recommended for patients with severe mental illness.

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Patients who participated in CBT via the internet had equal or better outcomes compared with those who participated in traditional in-person CBT.

Internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) combined with clinical care has been shown to benefit people with depression, anxiety and emotional distress from illness, according to an evidence-based review in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The review looks at recent, high quality studies and the growing body of literature on smartphone and tablet applications for mental illness. Some studies showed that patients who used Internet-delivered CBT had better outcomes than placebo controls and equal or better outcomes than those with traditional in-person cognitive behavior therapy. These outcomes were seen in patients with depression, as well as those with physical illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

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