Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy for depression

Many people who are depressed combine medications like Effexor with cognitive behavioral therapy to treat their symptoms.

Many people who are depressed combine medications like Effexor with cognitive behavioral therapy to treat their symptoms. A new study shows that online cognitive behavioral therapy is just as or more beneficial than in-person sessions.

Researchers from the University of Zurich published their results in the July 2013 edition of the Journal of Affective Disorders. They randomly assigned 30 patients with face-to-face interventions and 32 patients to internet-based interventions. Both groups received the same therapy, as techniques were chosen that could be performed in writing as well as orally. After eight weeks of treatment, both groups had significant positive changes in their depression symptoms. However, at the 3-month follow-up, only those who had received treatment online continued to remain stable, while those treated face-to-face were more likely to decline.

Possible factors
The results are puzzling: People generally believe that in-person communication is more personal, meaningful and important. However, the authors reported that the online group reported re-reading their online correspondences with their therapists - possibly refreshing their feelings of self-worth, providing them a booth of confidence or helping them to feel cared for. Additionally, perhaps study participants had their own biases about receiving online treatment and thus worked hard to benefit most from it. The researchers concluded that online treatment can be an effective course for medium-term care. Still, considering the study involved only 62 patients, more research is necessary.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy?
CBT is a type of psychotherapy that is used to treat people with depression, anxiety and other health issues, though anyone can benefit from CBT. It's meant to help people become aware of negative or inaccurate thinking and to view difficult situations clearly in order to respond effectively.

During CBT, a licensed psychotherapist works to help people gain a better understanding of difficult experiences. The steps involve identifying troubling conditions or situations; becoming aware of one's own emotions, beliefs and thoughts about each circumstance; identifying patterns of thinking and behavior and how they contribute to the problem; challenging negative thinking through practice, and strategies to combat depression. One's therapist will often assign homework and daily journaling. CBT is a short-term therapy that usually lasts between 10 and 20 sessions, though therapists and clients work together to develop an effective plan.