Two Studies Explore Effectiveness of Online Therapy

Man talking to therapist over video chatTwo new studies suggest online therapy may be effective for treating mental health issues. Online therapy is increasingly popular, particularly among people who live in rural areas and cannot easily get to a therapist’s office or who are concerned about the costs of in-person therapy. New technology may pose some concerns, and the security of online therapy continues to be an issue, but research suggests the benefits may be significant.

The Benefits of Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The first study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, reviewed studies of online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) conducted between 2000 and 2012. CBT is a widely used and well-researched form of therapy, with most studies saying in-person forms of this treatment are highly effective. CBT focuses on reducing negative thoughts, thereby changing behavior and alleviating symptoms.

Most of the studies tracked participants for a relatively short period of time after undergoing therapy—ranging from eight weeks to about two years. Researchers found online CBT could effectively reduce symptoms of depression and other mental health issues. In some cases, online CBT was even more effective than traditional in-person therapy.

Most online CBT sessions focused on short-term goals and symptom relief. Because the studies did not track participants for an extended period of time, the researchers do not know if the symptoms were permanently alleviated. The team that conducted the analysis cautions that some human connection is lost with online therapy, but they also say the evidence supporting online therapy’s effectiveness is significant.

Reducing Suicidal Feelings in Doctors

Another study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, looked at how online therapy affects the well-being of new doctors. Young doctors often work long hours, including nights and weekends, and the stress of those long shifts can lead to mental health issues such as depression and suicidal thoughts. One previous study found that suicidal thoughts increase four-fold during a medical residency.

Researchers looked at 200 first-year medical residents working 80-hour weeks and overnight shifts. Compared to doctors who received no online therapy, doctors who received four 30-minute online sessions before beginning their residency had fewer suicidal thoughts. Because the sessions were delivered online, researchers say it might be possible to provide such treatment to other doctors while still keeping costs low.

References:

  1. Mozes, A. (2015, November 3). Online therapy may help some with emotional problems. Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2015/11/03/online-psychotherapy-may-help-some-with-emotional-problems
  2. Online cognitive behavioral therapy benefits people with depression, anxiety. (2015, November 2). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151102125440.htm
  3. Study: Online therapy eases new doctors’ suicidal thoughts. (2015, November 4). Retrieved from http://news.wabe.org/post/study-online-therapy-eases-new-doctors-suicidal-thoughts

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  • janna

    November 9th, 2015 at 10:41 AM

    While this may not be the appropriate path for all seeking therapy to pursue I do think that it can be a wonderful outlet especially for those who are limited in resources available in their areas. Why should they be punished and have to drive for hours to seek out treatment that is not available in their area when they could really benefit from something that they could access online? I think that for many people this is a reasonable answer for something that has been bothersome for a very long time, and that is the fact that coverage is not equal everywhere that we live but the opportunity to access it and receive it should definitely be. I think that doing work online could be the answer that many have been seeking.

  • stanley

    November 10th, 2015 at 10:40 AM

    This may not be the right thing for everyone, but when it is your only option I would definitely think that it is better than doing nothing at all to get help

  • hopeless & betrayed

    January 12th, 2016 at 2:15 AM

    I think online Theraphy is cold and distant. it is like talking to an avatar or playing a game
    I have trust issues and have been lied to by the therapist. On line doesn’t help. Just like in social media everyone can create. False self. Time will show it is more damaging and less effective. Just like the medical field new Drs rely only on technologiy for answers ( which have nearly killed me) Drs aren’t trained to treat a person. On line therapy is a 40 minute session of “Pay for a friend to talk to”

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    January 12th, 2016 at 8:51 AM

    Dear Hopeless & Betrayed,

    Thank you for sharing. We are sorry to hear that you have had a negative therapy experience. Please know an ethical and qualified therapist should not lie to you or mislead you. If you would like to talk to someone and feel therapy may be helpful, we encourage you to reach out to a new therapist.

    By searching our website, you can find listings of qualified therapists in your area. Simply enter your ZIP code here:
    http://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html

    It can often take time to find the right therapist for you, but please know that help is available. We wish you the best of luck in your search.

    Kind regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • zahra

    October 24th, 2016 at 3:12 AM

    Are there any particular published up-to-date articles that support online therapy? Can you plz give me their names? I only see old supportive articles from 2 3 years ago

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    October 24th, 2016 at 8:40 AM

    Hi Zahra,
    Thank you for your comment! We have the following links that you might find helpful:

    Help at Your Fingertips: Is Online Therapy Right for You?
    Distance Therapy, or Online Therapy

    Wishing you all the best,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

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