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  1. #1
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    The shrink is online: Internet-based therapy benefits depression

    The shrink is online: Internet based therapy of long-term benefit for depression
    Thursday, 12-Oct-2006

    Researchers at The Australian National University have found that brief Internet-based interventions for depression are not only immediately effective, but have a significant positive long-term benefit that may be as effective as active psychotherapies.

    The yet-to-be-published findings by Professors Helen Christensen and Andrew Mackinnon and Dr Kathy Griffiths at the Centre for Mental Health Research (CMHR) at ANU demonstrate that the Internet can in some cases be as effective for the treatment of depression as treatments involving direct human contact.

    CMHR is a leader in the development and provision of mental health information and intervention via the Internet and has developed an online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) site, moodgym.anu.edu.au, and a psycho education website bluepages.anu.edu.au, which are accessed free of charge and anonymously by hundreds of thousands of users around the world. BluePages provides information about a range of psychological, medical and alternative treatments and recommends those supported by scientific evidence.

    The study evaluated the effectiveness of the two websites 12-months from initial contact. While a number of studies have confirmed the effectiveness of internet interventions for depression, the ANU study is the first one to look at the longer term effectiveness of online treatment.

    Professor Christensen said the study found that improvement in symptoms among users of MoodGYM and BluePages was maintained at 12 months, and in the case of depression, there was greater improvement over the longer term.

    "For people who had higher levels of depression at the outset, we found that BluePages in particular provided greater average benefit after 12 months," Professor Christensen said.

    "We don't know exactly why the internet interventions are so effective in the longer term, but it may be that there is a reduction in use of ineffective and potentially damaging treatments. It may also be that the information on the websites really only becomes effective once people have put into place the treatments and practices recommended.

    "The findings also suggest that brief interventions may have a lasting positive effect on people struggling with depression - an outcome that may seem counter-intuitive given the lack of human support and low level of human interaction. But we do have evidence in other areas as well that such brief interventions can be very helpful."

    Professor Christensen said that the internet provided an effective way to reaching people struggling with mental health in rural and remote areas, as well as providing easy access to information to the over 60% of people affected by mental health problems don't seek or receive any professional help.

  2. #2
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    Re: The shrink is online: Internet-based therapy benefits depression

    I had a long look at that site, it was really interesting. Thanks for sharing the details
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." - Carl Jung

  3. #3
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    Re: The shrink is online: Internet-based therapy benefits depression

    It's interesting to me that Australia's relative isolation from much of the world has always made them quick to adopt and/or explore/exploit the potential of new communication technologies - whether it is personal commuinication, or education, or now medicine-psychotherapy (remember the "Flying Doctors" in the 60s and 70s? not sure if they still exist). We see a similar effect in Canada's far north.

    "Necessity is the Mother of Invention."

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    Re: The shrink is online: Internet-based therapy benefits depression

    Yes, the flying doctors are still about. They're flying dentists too now

    I live in the capital of my state, but the rest of the state is almost entirely rural. There are no psychologists in the north. Interns go up there every fortnight and work out of a tearoom in the community hospital or do therapy by teleconferencing. This kind of thing (the ANU site I mean) might be really useful in these scenarios, though I must say that with all the studies that show client-therapist rapport to be a significant contributor to client outcome I would be surprised if the outcome was quite as good.

    I don't know whether you're interested, but I went to a talk by a Scottish psychologist last year about a new system of video-conferencing therapy they'd devised to treat clients with eating disorders who lived on those remote islands off the coast. They ran a study to compare rates of improvement in clients who travelled for face-to-face therapy and those who had the video-conferencing therapy. It turned out that those who had the video-conferencing therapy often showed more improvement. They had a few ideas about why this might be, namely that there was less concern about judgements about body size (because you could really only see their face and part of their upper body), and less of a sense of being 'trapped' in a room with a therapist. That's about all I can remember, but I thought it was very interesting.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." - Carl Jung

  5. #5
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    Re: The shrink is online: Internet-based therapy benefits depression

    I had some real reservations about the whole notion of online counseling initially, or even telephone counseling. But I began to look at it closer when i realized that in many areas of the world it is that or nothing.

    It is good to see some data coming out about its effectiveness. It confirms my (limited so far) experience with distance counseling.

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