Randomized controlled trails have identified online cognitive behavioral therapy as an efficacious intervention in the management of common mental health disorders.
To assess the effectiveness of online CBT for different mental disorders in routine clinical practice.
An uncontrolled before-after study, with measurements at baseline, posttest, 6-week follow-up, and 1-year follow-up.
Participants & Setting
1500 adult patients (female: 67%; mean age: 40 years) with a GP referral for psychotherapy were treated at a Dutch online mental health clinic for symptoms of depression (n=413), panic disorder (n=139), posttraumatic stress (n=478), or burnout (n=470).
Manualized, web-based, therapist-assisted CBT, of which the efficacy was previously demonstrated in a series of controlled trials. Standardized duration of treatment varied from 5 weeks (online CBT for Posttraumatic stress) to 16 weeks (online CBT for Depression).
Main Outcome Measures
Validated self-report questionnaires of specific and general psychopathology, including the Beck Depression Inventory, the Impact of Event Scale, the Panic Disorder Severity Scale-Self Report, the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory, and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales.
Treatment adherence was 71% (n=1071). Study attrition was 21% at posttest, 33% at 6-week FU and 65% at 1-year FU. Mixed-model repeated measures regression identified large short-term reductions in all measures of primary symptoms (d=1.9±0.2 to d=1.2±0.2; P<.001), which sustained up to one year after treatment. At posttest, rates of reliable improvement and recovery were 71% and 52% in the completer sample (full sample: 55%/40%). Patient satisfaction was high.
Results suggest that online therapist-assisted CBT may be as effective in routine practice as it is in clinical trials. Although pre-treatment withdrawal and long-term outcomes require further study, results warrant continued implementation of online CBT.