A recent meta-analysis revealed significant rates of efficacy in treating symptoms of depression using online self-guided therapy, or iCBT (Internet-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).
Barriers to treatment often deter patients experiencing symptoms of depression from seeking help. Limited access to trained therapists, fear of social stigmas, and high costs of treatment can effectively bar individuals from obtaining the care they need to address symptoms. Despite data suggesting that many people would prefer psychotherapy treatments to prescriptions for anti-depressant medication, the latter is currently the most prevalent form of treatment for symptoms of depression.
Online self-guided therapy, or iCBT (Internet-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), presents a new first-step option for patients seeking psychotherapy that works to counteract common barriers to treatment. Easy accessibility, low cost, and individual control over the online program provide large numbers of individuals across the world with opportunities to address depressive symptoms.
A new Journal of the American Medical Association: Psychiatry (2017) study narrowed a field of 13,384 relevant articles regarding psychological treatments for depression from databases such as PubMed, Embase, PsychINFO, and Cochrane Library dating through January 2016. Two primary researchers selected 13 randomized clinical trials to analyze, containing 3876 participants with an average age of 42 years. Studies selected for meta-analysis were included only if self-guided iCBT was compared against controls (i.e. waiting list, attention placebo, usual care, etc.), and participants were 18 years or older with self-reported or diagnosed depressive symptoms.
Post-treatment assessment results indicated that self-guided iCBT demonstrated significantly lower severity of depression symptoms and greater response to treatment as compared with the control conditions. While these positive findings are consistent with relevant literature on the topic, this study presents questions for further investigation, as it did not specify which self-guided iCBT sites were used in these trials, nor did it compare each site’s treatment methodologies.
Ensuring unfettered access to treatment is crucial to individual care. Providing patients experiencing depressive symptoms with accessible, low-cost initial treatment options has the potential to significantly improve the landscape of treatment for psychological conditions. Further research is required to identify the limitations and long-term outcomes of self-guided iCBT in order to determine the conditions for maximum efficacy and provide comparative data for treatment options, including online treatment programs offering therapist or coach support.
Written By: Jennifer Newton