Self-guided cognitive behavioral therapy may help curb depressive symptoms, finds research

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that works by changing a patient’s way of thinking and behavioral patterns. By making a patient aware of his/her distorted thinking and irrational behavior, it helps them develop alternative ways of thinking, thereby reducing their psychological distress. While CBT is highly successful in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety, it might be cumbersome for those who do not have the time to go to a therapist or do not want to go through social stigma.

With support of loved ones, people can cope up with stress gradually and need not go to a therapist. The conventional way of treating someone with depression has been in the form of a face-to-face tête-à-tête; in an Internet-based CBT or iCBT, a patient simply logs on to an online program via an Internet-enabled device and completes interactive modules on identifying symptoms, setting goals and finding new ways of thinking about everyday events. An iCBT program may include quizzes, homework exercises and self-assessment to monitor an individual’s progress.

According to a new research titled, “Efficacy of Self-guided Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the Treatment of Depressive Symptoms,” researchers have shown that online programs offering CBT without a therapist can reduce depression symptoms in some people.

Respondents completing iCBT treatment have good chances of recovery

In the new analysis, researchers examined data from 13 studies comparing iCBT to alternative treatments or a placebo and involved 3,832 patients. Out of the total studies involved in the meta-analysis, five studies used the publicly available iCBT program at The patient pool comprised residents from the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The objective of the study was to estimate the effect of self-guided iCBT in treating those with depressive symptoms as compared to those in the controlled group. It also aimed at estimating the effect of treatment outcome and response as well as the impact on the cost of conventional treatment options. The meta-analysis was published on Feb. 22, 2017, in the JAMA Psychiatry.

The researchers discovered that as compared to 1,603 depressed patients in control groups, people who used iCBT websites has a higher chance of improvement. They also discovered that iCBT would work regardless of a patient’s level of depression. As per report’s chief author, Eirini Karyotaki from the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Amsterdam, those “with severe depression at the beginning of the treatment had a similar response to treatment as people with mild or moderate depression.”

For the purpose of the study, duration of symptoms was important as individuals with chronic depressive symptoms may not always respond immediately to the treatment. The researchers also observed that those who fully adhered to the iCBT treatment methodology and completed it did far better than those who did not.

Merits and disadvantages of iCBT

With iCBT, patients have the advantage of saving time and cost in making visits to a therapist’s office and attending the sessions as per their convenience and need. The program also has the benefit of being accessible to remote or rural areas and is more appealing to those who feel discrimination or experience fear while confiding to a stranger. Automated CBT programs offer a cheaper alternative to traditional therapies used in treating anxiety and depression. In addition, the iCBT allows therapists to treat more patients in less time and monitor their progress. Online therapy is also beneficial in places with there is no infrastructure for mental health.

However, the downside of the program is that it may not be effective for patients who do not stick to the program, have limited Internet access, or are not technologically well-informed. In addition, many patients would prefer to have a personal session with someone who understands their condition closely and not just gives feedback. Machine-based therapy can prove to be insensitive in such cases.

Road to recovery

While self-guided iCBT is effective in treating depressive symptoms, its limitations need to be addressed before it can be integrated into routine care. For those suffering from any kind of mental ailment, get in touch with experts at the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to find the best mental health rehabilitation centers in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with experts to know the finest mental health counseling programs and start the journey to recovery today.