In a groundbreaking new study, psychological researchers have determined Web-based psychotherapy is at least as effective as conventional face-to-face consultations.
The findings, by clinical researchers from the University of Zurich, indicate that three months after the end of therapy, patients given online treatment suffered fewer symptoms and reported comparable progress to those undergoing conventional psychotherapy.
For the study, six therapists treated 62 patients, most of whom were suffering from moderate depression. The patients were divided into two groups at random — one of which received Web-based therapy and the other conventional treatment. The patients underwent eight sessions of accepted practices of cognitive behavior therapy than can be carried out orally and in writing.
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Patients treated online had to perform one predetermined written task per therapy session — such as examining their own negative self-image.
"In both groups, the depression values fell significantly," said lead researcher Andreas Maercker. But the researchers found 53 percent of the patients who underwent online therapy had no linger symptoms of depression, compared to 50 percent of those who had face-to-face therapy.
What’s more, three months after completing the treatment, the benefits of Internet therapy were even more pronounced: 57 percent of online patients remained symptom-free, compared to 42 percent who underwent conventional therapy.
For both groups, the degree of satisfaction with the treatment and therapists was about the same, with 96 percent of the online patients giving the sessions high marks, compared to 91 percent of the conventional patients.
"In the medium term, online psychotherapy even yields better results," said Maercker. "Our study is evidence that psychotherapeutic services on the Internet are an effective supplement to therapeutic care."
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