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Here's the truth about online therapy...

Stashed in: #health, Brain, Awesome, Mad Men!, PTSD, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mental Health, Apps

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First of all, WOW there are 6000 apps focused on mental health:

There are over 100,000 health apps in the iTunes and Google Play stores, and in September 2012 about 6% of those apps in the iTunes store were specifically focused on mental health.

This type of care is so new we're barely starting to get a sense of its efficacy. Worst-case scenario, it might not work at all.

So... Does online therapy work?

Studies comparing software-based cognitive behavioral therapy programs to traditional CBT have shown that the tech-based care — which includes therapy with and without a real therapist in the loop — was about as good at alleviating depressive symptoms post-treatment, though improvements lagged behind traditional care at long-term follow-ups. Patients getting therapy through technology were also more likely to drop out of treatment than patients getting traditional therapy.

Overall, research studies "support a role for these interventions in modern psychotherapy delivery," Aboujaoude and his coauthors write. After all, they may be the only option certain patients have.

As for smartphone apps, researchers think that they can be beneficial because they allow users to log how they feel in real-time, gathering more accurate data than that stored in memory. Research has backed this up: One study of self-monitoring apps found they help users increase their self-awareness and improve depressive symptoms.

However, there's still not much research about the efficacy of smartphone apps for mental health, and Aboujaoude and his coauthors say documented dropout rates and user fatigue are "serious limitations."

That said, the amount of medical care administered remotely is only expected to increase in the future. Though there's not yet much research about how well telemental health care works, what we know so far suggests it could very well be an effective way to reach people who otherwise could not access care.

I think the good news is the tremendously increased accessibility. 

Yes, now we just need to learn if online therapy actually helps people. 

ronald hayes

I agree with the promise of online technology supporting therapies. Behavioral mental heath approaches have been overshadowed by our cultural predisposition to take a pill.  Adam's figures are encouraging, and they suggest there is real opportunity for growth in mental health apps. Marty Seligman has worked with the DoD to apply his principles of positive psychology to Army soldiers. His approach includes online components. My understanding is that his work is a part of a Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not restricted to the military. PTSD is a major civilian mental health issue, and most studies suggest that women have double the lifetime risk for PTSD than the risk for men. I wonder if anyone in the mental health app community (including Marty) is leveraging  these publically funded efforts to provide platforms for broader implementations addressing civilian needs?

Not that I've heard of -- at least not yet. I will ask around. 

The truth about online therapy is that we still have a lot to learn!

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