Traditional forms of therapy involve meeting one-on-one with a trained counselor where a patient can discuss their problems in a safe environment. While there is no substitute for the personal touch of individual therapy in its basic form, new methods of internet-based therapy can be helpful as a supplement in certain cases.
Studies on the use of internet-based therapy have found that it can potentially be helpful for adolescents who are suffering from anxiety disorders as they are also receiving standard treatment in a psychiatric clinic. There is evidence to show that disorders like anxiety and depression can be reduced through the use of cognitive behavioral therapy provided online. Internet-based treatment can add extra assignments to their existing treatment that include an element of self-responsibility that is not always a part of traditional therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adolescents
Anxiety disorders are some of the most common psychiatric disorders for children and adolescents. When anxiety occurs in childhood it can have a moderate to high impact on functioning and can even lead to severe disability possibly continuing into early adulthood. The likelihood of developing a disability is more pronounced for patients who do not receive treatment which unfortunately accounts for as much as 80 percent of cases. Adolescents and young children experiencing anxiety are usually treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and in some cases pharmacotherapy as well.
In treatment, patients can learn to identify physical, cognitive and behavioral components of their anxiety and gradually apply skills to face fearful situations outside of their therapy sessions. Internet-based cognitive therapy involves a combination of computerized CBT manuals and guided therapy that is structured to be similar to face-to-face therapy. The type of therapy reviewed in the study included personal contact with the therapist as well including e-mails, phone conversations and some in-person visits for support.
Internet Therapy Assignments
The study for Internet Interventions tested the effects of online treatment on adolescents with anxiety and in some cases co-occurring depressive symptoms. There were 11 patients used in the study aged 15-19 who were given 6 to 18 weeks of treatment with the internet-based cognitive therapy. Patients were provided with individually prescribed CBT text modules adapted for their age group and were advised to spend 1-2 weeks on each prescribed module. Following their treatment, the adolescents showed statistically significant improvements on all dependent measures.
For those in the study, 80 percent no longer met the criteria for their primary anxiety disorder immediately after completing treatment. Overall the study suggested that internet-based therapy may be a suitable treatment for adolescents with anxiety disorders. The authors of the study said that the results may indicate that online therapy can be helpful but they also cautioned about the small size and lack of randomization to a control group. They suggested that further studies should be conducted with larger samples in order to back up the study with stronger evidence.
Although more research is necessary to prove the effectiveness of internet-based therapy, the study shows the potential for this type of therapy at least as a supplement for adolescents who are dealing with anxiety problems. As long as patients have access to personal contact with their therapist and even can attend regular face-to-face sessions, internet therapy may provide some additional support to help adolescents when they are suffering from anxiety episodes or feelings of depression.
Online therapy assignments may provide young patients the opportunity to work on their treatment independently and may help them retain the information they learn in their therapy sessions. Internet-based therapy could eventually prove to be a modern element used to work alongside traditional therapy.