Internet Therapies Generate Interest

2014-03-31_10-55-45There is increasing interest in “apps” that can support mental health (one of our most enthusiastic readers recently posted a query on this topic on the forum). Apps are rarely intended to deliver “therapy” – they are usually not written by mental health professionals (although mental health professionals may be consulted along the way). Their goal is to be appealing so that they sell.

There is a parallel movement to put mental health treatments online. This has been sparked, in part, by the lack of access to trained therapists who can deliver effective, evidence based treatments in many parts of the country, and the world.

An example of this is to be found on our website in the Topics section on the Sleep and Insomnia page. It is called SHUTi and it is a highly effective program designed to address insomnia. Studies find it to be as effective as sleeping medications, but, unlike sleeping medications, the effects last long after the program is done, and there are no side effects.

Now we are pleased to see that the International Society for Research on Internet therapy has begun to publish a journal, in order to enhance the quality of the science that supports these interventions.

The editor (Gerhard Andersson, PhD, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Linköping University and 
Guest Professor, Karolinska Institute) had this to say in the first volume –

The Internet is increasingly used for delivering interventions aimed at improving mental and physical health. Internet interventions — often self-guided or partly self-guided — have proven effective in treating a number of psychiatric conditions, including depression, panic syndrome, social anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and insomnia, as well as more general medical conditions, including headache, back pain, tinnitus, diabetes management, problem drinking and smoking cessation. The increase in interest in Internet interventions can be traced to the many unique advantages: Internet interventions are geographically independent and cost-efficient. In addition to the advantages of lowering the help-seeking threshold and providing evidence-based healthcare to larger numbers, technological advances allow for novel intervention components, such as user-friendly visual screening instruments, video-based exposure therapy, interactive role-playing, automated reasoning models and more. Having received the approval of government and medical insurers, Internet interventions have already been integrated into the regular healthcare systems in the US and UK, and in Sweden, the Netherlands and Australia, to name a few examples.