Computer-Based Psychotherapy Not as Effective as Standard Care

Cognitive behavioral therapy — a form of talk therapy — is an effective treatment for depression. However, in-person therapy is not always available, so computer-assisted therapy was developed as a substitute.

But until now, the effectiveness of computer-assisted therapy hadn’t been studied.

The study included almost 700 British patients with depression who were randomly assigned to receive either standard care from their doctor or standard care with one of two computer-assisted therapy packages — one a commercial product and the other a free online product.

The computer-assisted therapy programs offered either six or eight one-hour sessions, respectively. Both programs also encouraged patients to do homework between the sessions.

The study found that computer-assisted therapy packages offered little or no benefit over standard care. After four months, 44 percent of patients in the standard care group were still depressed. Fifty percent of those in the commercial product group, and 49 percent of those in the free online product group remained depressed, the study reported.

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