Due to implemented lockdown around the globe as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, patients who go therapy for mental health have been forced to stay home. In a new study, experts explain how cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) seems more effective via online means rather than in-person therapy sessions.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is described as a short-term and goal-oriented treatment for depression, anxiety, and other problems in people's personal lives. This form of therapy is hand-on and takes on a practical approach to solving problems.
Normally, sessions occur for an hour once a week until the CBT is completed in a matter of months. The strategized behavioral therapy works on finding ways for patients to discover how to cope with their specific problems in the long run.
However, several obstacles hinder patients from receiving appropriate therapy sessions such as waiting to be scheduled and the lack of available therapists. Some patients also live too far from where therapists conduct CBT.
Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
A team from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada published their study in The Lancet in June. Therapists and their patients were connected online via video conferences, email, text messages, and apps. Patients said that the level of satisfaction via online was the same as in-person therapy sessions.
Professor Zena Samaan from the university and a psychiatrist at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton said, 'Although this study started before the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is timely and assuring that treatment delivered electronically works as well if not better than face to face and there is no compromise on the quality of care that patients are receiving during this stressful time.'
In a separate study that analyzed the effectiveness of CBT for patients with health anxiety or hypochondriasis, Professor Erik Hedman-Lagerlöf from the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden shares his insight with online therapy. 'The results show that a treatment delivered exclusively online is sufficient to achieve tough and required behavioral changes. This is especially relevant now when the coronavirus pandemic limits our opportunities for physical meetings, while the fear of being affected by a severe health condition is discussed more frequently.'
Debunked Psychotherapy Perceptions
In the Canadian study, the team compared 17 cognitive behavioral therapies via online versus face-to-face sessions between 2003 and 2018 in several countries. Samaan said that their meta-analysis debunked several psychotherapy perceptions, such as in-person human connection.
A common perception with therapy is that in-person sessions enable therapists to make a connection with their patients, which is believed to make a difference in the treatment. 'However, it is not surprising that electronic interventions are helpful in that they offer flexibility, privacy, and no travel time, time off work, transport, or parking costs. It makes sense that people access care, especially mental health care, when they need it from their own comfort space,' she explained
Samaan advocates the implantation of electronic CBT and hopes that more therapists and patients will support this new system. She believes that it can 'vastly improve access for patients, especially those in rural or underserved areas, and during pandemics.'
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