Of course it’s far more complex than booking a flight, but online psychotherapy has just passed a major milestone of success and efficacy in treating moderate depression. And this should prove to be good news for patients, families, and clinicians alike.
In a groundbreaking research study recently published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland asked, Does psychotherapy via the Internet work? Six therapists studied and treated 62 patients (an admittedly small sample) with moderate depression and found:
- 53% of patients treated via online therapy, compared with 50% of patients treated via face-to-face therapy, had fewer symptoms of depression.
- After three months, 57% of online therapy patients, compared with just 42% of face-to-face therapy patients, showed zero symptoms of depression.
While the bottom line showed that both groups of depressed patients responded favorably to treatment in this study, the surprising results were that “in both groups, depression values fell significantly,” stated Dr. Andreas Maercker, study author and professor of psychotherapy at the University of Zurich.
What’s more, in both groups, more than 90% of respondents, after eight weeks of (parallel) treatment, rated the contact with their therapists as “personal,” even when the therapist was communicating only via the Internet.
Could this mean that all the online activity and social networking that young adults and adults have logged over the past five to ten years have had at least one powerful, positive, measurable neuroscientific impact? And one with lasting results?
Could it also mean that countless people, those not in need of therapy, have begun to “partner” with their laptops, tablets, and mobile devices in far more personal, engaging, and scientific ways than imagined just a decade ago?
And now, it seems, as mind, mood, and brain-training exercises move online or onto the cloud with increasing frequency, brain/mind monitoring, and important cognitive behavioral treatment, may not be far behind.
Won’t be long before we’ll be hearing, “Your mobile device will see you now!”