Advice to avoid long waiting times to see a doctor
People suffering from depression should get counselling online to avoid long waiting times to see a doctor, according to new research.
A study of almost 300 patients found that those given cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) were two-and-a-half times more likely to recover from their mental health problems than those who received standard care from a GP.
One in six adults suffer from depression or chronic anxiety, and online CBT may offer an alternative to the growing problem.
Dr David Kessler, a senior primary care researcher at the University of Bristol and a part time GP, said: ‘The patients get up to ten one hour appointments which are carried out online by instant messenger.
‘Maybe it is the writing things down that helps so much because you have to think more when you do this. It is like being in a chat room with your therapist.’
In the study, patients aged from eighteen into their 70s were recruited from Bristol, London and Warwickshire and 149 were given online CBT along with the usual care while 148 got the customary GP sessions. After a four-month follow-up almost two fifths of those who got the online CBT recovered from depression compared with one in four of those who did not.
‘Cognitive behavioural therapy seems to be effective when delivered online in real time by a therapist, with benefits maintained over eight months. This method of delivery could broaden access to CBT in primary care,’ Dr Kessler said.
‘The number of patients for whom online CBT is feasible and attractive will grow. It could be useful in areas where access to psychological treatment is scarce, and for patients whose first language is not English.’