Teens Respond Well to Online CBT for Anxiety

A new study, aimed at identifying the most effective treatment protocol for adolescent anxiety, was recently conducted comparing clinic-based cognitive-behavioral therapy and online anxiety treatment. Researchers from Griffith University and the University of Queensland, in Queensland, Australia and Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, enrolled 115 adolescents who had been diagnosed as being clinically anxious, along with their parents, in the study. They based their research on the theory that adolescents may respond better to virtual treatment. They said, “Computer-based therapies may be particularly appropriate for young people. They can be accessed at any time and offer a sense of privacy and confidentiality that is highly valued by adolescents.”

To determine the level of anxiety in the participants, the team relied on several tests, including the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule, which was administered to both the adolescents and their parents, via the telephone. They measured outcomes during the study using the Children’s Global Assessment Scale and the Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale, Parent and Child versions. The tests were given at baseline, three months after baseline and again at both the six and 12 month follow-up points. They discovered that 78 percent of the adolescents in the internet group had experienced enough relief from their symptoms to no longer meet diagnostic criteria for anxiety, versus 80 percent of the clinical CBT group. Additionally, they found that the parents and adolescents reported equal levels of satisfaction from both methods of therapy. The researchers hope this study provides more validity to the value of online therapy for anxiety. They said, “Online delivery of CBT, with minimal therapist support, is equally efficacious as clinic-based, face-to-face therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders among adolescents. This approach offers a credible alternative to clinic-based therapy, with benefits of reduced therapist time and greater accessibility for families who have difficulty accessing clinic-based CBT.”

Spence, S. H., Donovan, C. L., March, S., Gamble, A., Anderson, R. E., Prosser, S., & Kenardy, J. (2011, July 11). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Online Versus Clinic-Based CBT for Adolescent Anxiety. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024512

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Nik El

    Nik El

    August 6th, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    They probably respond well to it because doing things online is the mode that they are accustomed to and feel the most comfortable in. Although I would have to be a little wary of the treatment and services that you receive online and that parents would have to be careful about what they are getting the teens involved in, it is a good idea and I hope to hear that services like this are going to be expanded soon.

  • saul


    August 7th, 2011 at 8:41 AM

    How do you verify credentials for the providers when you enroll in an online program such as this?

  • Brian Dar

    Brian Dar

    August 7th, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    At iCouch Mobile, we just released iCouch CBT, an iPhone app for CBT. This teen study is interesting because it shows that there may be some interesting results gained with a hybrid approach — online therapy (or a CBT app) blended with occasional “live” therapy sessions. Perhaps even more interesting isn’t that teens are showing some success with online therapies, all age groups have been showing statistically significant improvements in conditions such as anxiety and mild depression. The potential for iPhone tools for CBT coupled with traditional therapy models might be an interesting area for future study.

  • louise johnston

    louise johnston

    August 7th, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    I think online therapy is a real boon to this upcoming generation as they are so tech-focused. It’s the draw of the familiar. Also, not having to physically sit face-to-face with a therapist in their office would be a plus for them, when they are at the age where the idea of doing that would be hard for some, especially anxiety sufferers.

    It’s great to see the approach validated as workable and effective.

  • mike


    August 7th, 2011 at 10:59 AM

    Youngsters today r used 2 doing most things online,things that would require us 2 travel miles back in d day.so when u offer them somethin like this they r sure to wrap it up…why just see me typing short forms 4 certain words even though I’m no youngster…! :)

  • abigail c. guthrie

    abigail c. guthrie

    August 7th, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    For older clients that are less than competent with computers this may not be an ideal offering but for the youth, online therapy is an excellent idea. They would like the feeling of security that would give them knowing they are more in control of the environment than they would be sitting in a doctor’s office.

    I feel teens suffering from anxiety disorders would be more willing to give therapy a shot if the opportunity came up to attend in this manner.

  • taylor glass

    taylor glass

    August 7th, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    It’s not only a wonderful method for teenagers but for therapists to wishing to expand their client base.

    Online therapy widens the scope of the therapist’s reach beyond their local area since traveling distance is no longer a consideration. You could be at one end of the state and your client at the other.

    The possibilities are endless.



    August 7th, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    @Saul:Good question. But I believe we could have the required verification in place as well as security,just like in bank transactions and other secure transactions online. The identity of the other party is well established and certified by an agency.

    But I need to stress that I’m not in the field and am just speculating. It would be great if somebody in the know can answer this.

  • Lynne Tice

    Lynne Tice

    August 7th, 2011 at 7:52 PM

    What I like very much about the online therapy concept is its accessibility. It means the client’s options about the type of therapy they wish to participate in are unhindered by how far away the closest practitioner is. Meeting up with a specialist in a particular field just became much easier. Overall, a very good development all round!

  • donna


    August 8th, 2011 at 4:40 AM

    I like that this is something that anyone, even a teen, can get help with but without running the risk of everyone finding out and forcing them to talk with someone about things that they are not ready to do. I think that it is this sense of anonymity that being online will prvide will hopefully encourage more of those who need help to seek it out.

  • Fredrick


    August 8th, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    I would take such an option with both hands if I was in need.Online counseling gives you that extra bit of privacy.And this can be a major thing for people like me that do not open up easily to new people and can even suffer anxiety as a result!

  • Moshe


    July 11th, 2014 at 11:52 AM

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