The New York Times published an online article on 6-19-15 about MoodGym, an online program that uses quizzes and exercises to help people with depression. This article, “Depressed? Try Therapy Without the Therapist,” is thorough and covers a lot of territory: it describes the MoodGym program and some similar programs, reviews research about the outcomes of online therapy programs (mostly positive findings), and discusses why such programs are much more popular in some countries than they are in the US.
The article notes, “MoodGym and its kin are important because untreated mental illness is a huge global problem,” and many people with depression don’t have access to in-person treatment, are wary of treatment for various reasons, or, particularly relevant in the US, don’t yet have symptoms that meet medical necessity criteria, and therefore don’t have access to payment for treatment.
The author notes: “Face-to-face cognitive behavioral therapy…is well-suited for prevention of depression (emphasis added). But (the American) health insurance system is not. No one will pay for face-to-face therapy for someone who doesn’t yet have a disorder. There is a clear need here for the online version.” He also notes that most people who use an online treatment program obtain the most benefit when that have at least occasional contact with an in-person therapist, at least to help them sustain their work on the online exercises. He also notes that there are plans in the the works to expand this type of treatment to many other – perhaps all!- mental health conditions.
My take: this is an excellent article. It discusses an interesting and innovative online service and the research in support of online therapy services. It is advisable for behavioral professionals to be aware of these issues, even if you don’t use to refer for online programs.