Study says internet-based CBT therapy works like traditional therapy

internet-based CBT therapy, CBT therapy
© Dmytro Surkov

University of Gothenburg researchers found that internet-based CBT therapy works as well as traditional therapy – according to a study of 17,521 patients

The study was based on 76 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in Sweden and other countries. In total, the study included 17,521 patients, 71% of whom were women.

Cecilia Björkelund, Co-author and Senior Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy, said: “In mild or moderate depression, the effect of iCBT is as good as that of conventional CBT. For many, it’s a superb way of getting access to therapy without having to go to a therapist.

“We also saw that it was especially good for the elderly — a finding we didn’t entirely expect.”

For many, it’s a superb way of getting access to therapy without having to go to a therapist.

In a different study, the use of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) seemed to work for the treatment of eating disorders.

How does internet-based CBT work?

But in traditional Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), modification of patient thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are obstacles in their lives and impair the mood. During online CBT treatment, patients are given tasks and exercises to perform on their own – similarly to what traditional CBT is like.

The factor that proved most significant for the prognosis was the depth of depression at the start of treatment. In milder depression, better results were obtained. Therapist support and text-message reminders increased the proportion of patients who completed the therapy.

‘A real step forward’, says Björkelund

Björkelund further commented: “If you’re going to use iCBT in health care, the programs have to be regulated just as well as drugs are, but that’s not the case today. With this study, we’re taking a real step forward.

“First, the study surveys what’s most effective. Second, it provides knowledge of how to design a program and adapt its composition to patients’ problems.”

Read the full study here.


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