Online Psychotherapy

TUESDAY, Nov. 3, 2015 (HealthDay News) — The Internet has made it possible for people to work and study from home, and new research suggests that a staple of mental health care may also be headed to a computer near you.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a mix of two disciplines that aims to help a person improve the way he or she thinks about problems and problem-solving, while also tackling unhealthy behaviors.

For now, online versions of CBT remain rare in North America, with a few pilot programs underway in Toronto, Ohio and Kentucky, said researcher Dr. David Gratzer. He is a psychiatrist and physician-in-charge of mental health inpatient services at Scarborough Hospital in Toronto.

“The long and the short of it,” he said, “[is that] we love our iPhones here in North America, but we are failing to take advantage of technology for mental health services the way the Swedes and Australians have.”

But can depression, anxiety and/or emotional distress triggered by physical illness be treated as well online as face-to-face?

To answer that question, Gratzer and his colleague, Faiza Khalid-Khan, reviewed studies conducted between 2000 and 2012 that have examined the issue.

They found that when it is offered, online therapy typically focuses on solving a patient’s specific goals, and therefore, is usually a short-term venture. Some services are free; others have a cost. The online therapy may or may not be supplemented by in-person sessions with a therapist.

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