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Online Behavioral Therapy Found Effective in Depression

42 percent with online therapy recovered from depression versus 26 percent with usual care

In a study in the United Kingdom, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions conducted online with a therapist reduced depression better than usual in-person care with a general practitioner, according to a study in the Aug. 22 issue of The Lancet.

David Kessler, M.D., of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues recruited 297 individuals with confirmed depression diagnoses from 55 general practices in the U.K. The subjects were randomly assigned to receive online CBT consisting of up to 10 counseling sessions (55-minutes duration) with a therapist online or to receive usual care as in-person sessions with a general practitioner. The study outcomes were recovery from depression at four and eight months as indicated by the Beck Depression Inventory.

At four-month follow-up, the researchers found that 38 percent of the online CBT group recovered from depression (Beck score of less than 10) compared to 24 percent in the control group. At eight months follow-up, the recovery rates were 42 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

"Real-time online CBT offers the flexibility and responsiveness of face-to-face CBT and is appropriate for people with severe symptoms. It affords an opportunity for reflection and review as part of the therapeutic process, which could enhance its effectiveness," the authors write.