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02-29 Online therapy helps people with depression, anxiety

Online therapy helps people with depression, anxiety

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, roughly 1 in 5 adults in the United States struggle with mental illness in any given year. That’s a startling 43.8 million people, or enough people to fill the entire state of California and then some.

Of course, mental illness isn’t just an issue that affects adults. Half of these mental illnesses first arise when the person is still a teen.

Online therapy — one way to reach the unreachable

We can accomplish a lot of tasks remotely in our Internet era. We can buy groceries, read books, arrange dates and apply for jobs. So why not receive mental health treatment online as well?

A study published this past November in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that Internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can benefit individuals with depression and anxiety. Online therapy can also help patients who are emotionally distressed due to a serious, physical illness such as cancer or multiple sclerosis.

In this study, conducted by David Gratzer, M.D., and Faiza Khalid-Khan, social worker, the researchers looked at over a thousand studies that examined the efficacy of Internet-delivered CBT. Many of the studies indicated that patients who used Internet-delivered CBT had better outcomes than placebo controls, as well as equal or better outcomes than individuals who received traditional in-person therapy. Internet-delivered CBT showed encouraging effects on the mental health of patients with depression and anxiety as well as people struggling with physical illnesses.

The advantages of Internet-delivered CBT are twofold.

  • First, Internet-delivered CBT allows patients who would typically be unable to receive psychiatric help to have access to behavioral therapy. These patients may live in rural areas and be too far away from mental health doctors, or they may still be a teen and unable to convince their parents to let them get help. They may also be afraid of speaking to a clinician in person due to the stigma associated with mental illness.
  • Second, Internet-delivered CBT allows doctors to more efficiently treat patients and use fewer resources, since they do not require an office space.

“There are compelling data to support the integration of Internet-delivered CBT into clinical psychiatric care. These data indicate that this form of CBT offers numerous benefits to both the patient and the practitioner. It allows treatment of patients with many different psychiatric conditions, at lower cost than traditional CBT,” the authors conclude.

The future of Internet-delivered behavioral therapy

Of course, more work is necessary before online therapy becomes as common as in-person therapy. Compared to traditional therapy, more people drop out of online therapy, in part because it’s more socially acceptable to stop visiting a website than to stop attending therapy. Some people may have illnesses that are so severe that periodically chatting online is insufficient. Still others might also need that special human touch when it comes to treating their mental illness.

In the meantime, online therapy might be worth a try, especially if your inability to see a therapist in person is hindering your recovery. Many online therapists are just a click away, including those at BetterHelp.com, Talkspace.com and Breakthrough.com.

Sovereign Health understands that it isn’t easy being a teenager. School is getting more difficult. Hormones are changing. Unfortunately, mental illness often pops up during these teenage years as well, making a challenging time even worse. At Sovereign Health Group’s adolescent treatment program, our patients receive treatment that is both caring and compassionate. Patients are provided with customized treatment plans that include cognitive behavioral therapy, narrative therapy, group therapy, family systems therapy, equine therapy and yoga. For more information, contact us at our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Courtney Lopresti, M.S., is a senior staff writer for the Sovereign Health Group where she uses her scientific background to write online blogs and articles for a general audience. At the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her Master’s in neuroscience, she used functional neuroimaging to study how the human cerebellum contributes to language processing. In her spare time, she writes fiction, reads Oliver Sacks and spends time with her two cats and bird. Courtney is currently located in Minneapolis. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at news@sovhealth.com.

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