HealthDay News — Online cognitive behavioral therapy may help manage anxiety, depression, and emotional distress related to illness just as much, if not more than standard face-to-face interventions, according to research published in CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.
David Gratzer, MD, a psychiatrist and physician-in-charge of mental health inpatient services at Scarborough Hospital in Toronto, and his colleague, Faiza Khalid-Khan, MSW, reviewed studies conducted between 2000 and 2012 that have examined the issue. They found that when it is offered, online therapy typically focuses on solving a patient’s specific problems, and therefore is usually a short-term venture. Some services are free; others have a cost. The online therapy may or may not be supplemented by in-person sessions with a therapist.
Based on their review, the authors determined that online therapy can help with anxiety, depression, and emotional distress related to illness as much, if not more, than standard face-to-face interventions. The researchers also noted that Internet treatment may be helpful for people who are shy or reluctant to speak directly to a professional. In addition, Internet-provided cognitive therapy could help some patients minimize out-of-pocket costs.
However, Gratzer and Khalid-Khan warned that Internet therapy may not be appropriate for patients struggling with a severe mental illness. Most of the studies reviewed didn’t include severely ill patients out of an assumption that such patients’ needs would not be met with remote counseling. “People with mild to moderate depression and anxiety seem to do better than those with more severe illness,” Gratzer told HealthDay.