Computer-assisted psychotherapy

Depression treatment software is becoming more common since it is accessible and affordable.

Introduction

Computer-assisted psychotherapy for depression is developing rapidly. Several existing software programs can carry out many of the therapeutic tasks involved in depression treatment. Such programs help users to detail their problems, draw up a day-to-day treatment plan specific to their needs, rate their progress, practice coping with setbacks and do relapse prevention.  

Computer-assisted psychotherapy programs are often based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) what is then called computerized CBT (CCBT). Anxiety and other mental health disorders can also be treated with computer-assisted psychotherapy. 

Benefits and Challenges

Computer-assisted therapy may be a means of providing cost-effective psychological services to individuals experiencing barriers to treatment. Although in computer-assisted psychotherapy a human touch is missing, computers have significant strengths that can be used to advantage in depression treatment:

  • earlier access to treatment,
  • more treatment time than clinicians can usually give,
  • ease of treatment scheduling at home,
  • lower treatment cost,
  • confidentiality is greater and stigma avoided,
  • consistency of treatment instructions is greater,
  • self-help enhances a sense of control over one’s own destiny,
  • built-in outcome measures and systematic feedback.

Research

Many studies have demonstrated that computer-assisted therapy is effective in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders. Some of these studies are:

The American Journal of Psychiatry, June 2005
Jesse H. Wright, M.D., Ph.D and others
"A multimedia, computer-assisted form of cognitive therapy with reduced therapist contact was as efficacious as standard cognitive therapy. Computer-assisted therapy could decrease costs and improve access to cognitive therapy for depression." [...]
The British Journal of Psychiatry, July 2004
Judith Proudfoot, PhD and others
"Computer-delivered CBT is a widely applicable treatment for anxiety and/or depression in general practice." [...]
Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, Mar 1998
Sharon Dolezal-Wood, Cynthia D. Belar and John Snibbe
"It is concluded that at least one form of computer-assisted psychotherapy is as effective and acceptable to patients in a clinical setting as standard short-term cognitive-behavioral therapy conducted by experienced clinicians." [...]

 

Recommended Programs

There are three main modes of delivery for computer-aided depression and anxiety treatment:

  • internet access (MoodGym, Depression Program, Defeating Depression, Feelbetter),
  • telephone-accessed interactive voice response systems (COPE and BTSTEPS) and
  • desktop software
    • independently used (Good Days Ahead).
    • with required supervision of a mental health professional (Beating the Blues and FEARFIGHTER).

We recommend two computer-assisted psychotherapy programs: Good Days Ahead and Depression Program.

1. Good Days Ahead

Good Days Ahead is a computer program used to treat depression and anxiety as well as stress and low self-esteem. It utilizes interactive multimedia with scientifically tested cognitive therapy treatments designed to introduce positive changes in how you think and feel. Good Days Ahead is an easy-to-use software program with videos, high quality graphics, and stimulating self-help exercises designed to help you overcome depression and anxiety.

2. Depression Program

The Depression Program is an Internet based 16-session cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment. Access is anonymous so using it is confidential. The Depression Program has a number of tools and resources to help each individual battle their depression.

Conclusion

The introduction of computer technology into psychotherapy offers the significant advantages of flexibility, consistency, and economy that would make psychotherapy more effective and more available treatment to a much broader population.


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