Can the Internet be used to treat physiological disorders?

Apparently. In particular, this approach was tried with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). A current study in PLoS investigated whether iCBT (Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy) works when the process is guided by a clinician.

The research was done in connection with the “VirtualClinic,” self described as ” … the Internet-based Research Clinic that develops and evaluates free online education and treatment programs for people with anxiety and depression.”*. The study involved 150 GAD participants, who were randomly assigned to three groups: “Clinician-assisted vs. technician-assisted vs. delayed treatment.”

Both clinician- and technician-assisted treatment resulted in large effect sizes and clinically significant improvements comparable to those associated with face-to-face treatment, while a delayed treatment/control group did not improve. These results provide support for large scale trials to determine the clinical effectiveness and acceptability of technician-assisted iCBT programs for GAD. This form of treatment has potential to increase the capacity of existing mental health services.

The details of the study are here.

Robinson E, Titov N, Andrews G, McIntyre K, Schwencke G, et al. 2010 Internet Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing Clinician vs. Technician Assistance. PLoS ONE 5(6): e10942. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010942

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