Is online psychotherapy effective? How do online sessions compare to face-to-face therapy?
Clinical researchers from the University of Zurich report in the Journal of Affective Disorders on the result of a “gold standard” randomized control study. In the study, 62 patients were randomly assigned to either online therapy or face-to-face sessions.
Based on earlier studies, the Zurich team assumed that the two forms of therapy were on a par. Not only was their theory confirmed, the results for online therapy even exceeded their expectations. (Science Daily, July 30 2013)
The study population included, primarily, patients suffering from moderate depression. Treatment consisted of eight sessions (cognitive behavior therapy).
Outcomes for Online Psychotherapy Sessions vs. Face-to-Face Therapy
At the end of the eight sessions, depression could not be diagnosed in 53% of the online therapy group versus 50% for patients in the face-to-face therapy group.
In a follow up evaluation three months later, the odds ratio in favor of online therapy had increased to 1.36. Depression could not be diagnosed in:
- 57% of patients from the online therapy group versus
- 42% of patients in the face-to-face therapy group
While you might have expected client satisfaction with the level of service to be higher with conventional therapy, the opposite result was found.
- 96% of patients from the online therapy group rated the contact with their therapist as “personal”
- 91% of patients in the face-to-face therapy group rated the contact with their therapist as “personal”
One explanation for the difference that we have suggested is that assignments provided to clients in the online therapy group were electronically available to clients after and outside of the sessions. Participants in the online therapy group indicated that they had re-read correspondence with their therapist from time.
Professor Andreas Maercker, summing up the results of the study conservatively:
In the medium term, online psychotherapy even yields better results. Our study is evidence that psychotherapeutic services on the internet are an effective supplement to therapeutic care
- Wagner Birgit, Andrea B. Horn, Maercker Andreas. Internet-based versus face-to-face cognitive-behavioral intervention for depression: A randomized controlled non-inferiority trial. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2013.06.032
- University of Zurich (2013, July 30). Psychotherapy via internet as good as if not better than face-to-face consultations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130730091255.htm
More Information About Online Psychotherapy
You might be interested in:
- A Systematic Review of Online Counseling and Therapy.
- Evidence from the UK about Distance therapy for mild to moderate disorders.
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