Washington : Scientists have found that a series of self-guided, internet-based therapy platforms effectively reduce depression. Researchers from Indiana University (IU) in the US reviewed 21 pre-existing studies with a total of 4,781 participants. In the past several years, many internet-based apps and websites have made claims to treat depression.
Internet therapy platforms may help fight depression
The study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, focussed on those applications that provide treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy that focuses on changing thought patterns and behaviour to alleviate symptoms of depression and other mental disorders. Previous studies had examined the effectiveness of individual internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy apps, or iCBT, using a range of methods. Until this study, however, no review had examined whether the effects of these treatments were inflated by excluding patients with more severe depression or additional conditions such as anxiety or alcohol abuse. "Before this study, I thought past studies were probably focused on people with very mild depression, those who did not have other mental health problems, and were at low risk for suicide," said Lorenzo Lorenzo-Luaces, a professor at IU. "To my surprise, that was not the case.
A central question was determining whether previous studies distorted the strength of these systems' effects by excluding people with severe depression. The conclusion was that the apps worked in cases of mild, moderate and severe depression. Many of the studies in the analysis compared use of internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy apps to placement on a wait list for therapy or the use of a "fake app" that made weak recommendations to the user. In these cases, the iCBT apps worked significantly better.