Since the Internet's expansion as a resource available across the world, scientists and therapists have been attempting to make therapy accessible and effective online. A new study to be published in the August 2014 edition of Behavior Research and Therapy concludes that therapists might have already attained that goal. The study, which tailored Internet-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (ICBT) to the patients using the program, found that tailored ICBT both improves anxiety levels in patients and does so cost-effectively.

The Research

Researchers recruited 100 participants from a primary care physician or a nurse who were seeking help for their mental health concerns. They randomly assigned these participants into two groups: one group only had access to therapists through one weekly email; the other group use online programs, which were tailored to fit their needs and preferences by a licensed clinical psychologist and psychiatrist.

Each participant in the treatment group completed seven to 10 treatment modules over the 10 week course. The modules had been proven effective in other studies with people diagnosed with panic disorder, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression. The modules were slightly reworded to better fit the needs of the participants. Participants had email access to a licensed clinical psychologist throughout the treatment, but the messaged mostly consisted of questions about the module and homework assignments.

After 10 weeks, 46% of participants in the treatment group showed statistically significant improvements in their mental health conditions, while only 12% of the control group showed improvement. These results were maintained in the follow-up interview one year after the module. The module was also more cost-effective than the therapy accessed by the control group.

The Future of the Internet and CBT

ICBT is not uncommon in this day and age. With so many people using search engines to find help with their anxiety disorders, this shouldn't come as a surprise. While seeing a therapist is still a highly effective method of soothing anxiety, ICBT can be used in conjunction with this therapy to improve results and get people on the road to improvement.

Mental health disorders, like anxiety and depression, can be difficult to cope with, both for the patient and for the people around him or her. By seeking help through an ICBT application, and attending therapy and psychiatry sessions, a patient can improve his or her mental health and achieve and overall higher quality of life.

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Lise Bergman Nordgren, Erik Hedman, Julie Etienne, Jessica Bodin, Åsa Kadowaki, Stina Eriksson, Emelie Lindkvist, Gerhard Andersson, Per Carlbring. Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of individually tailored Internet-delivered cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety disorders in a primary care population: A randomized controlled trial. Behavior Research and Therapy, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.brat.2014.05.007

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