Internet programs and smartphone apps cannot replace therapy with a specialist for mental illness. Researchers from the University of Zurich (UZH) came to this conclusion in a study. More and more people are seeking help for depression and anxiety disorders, the UZH wrote. However, there are longer wait times for those affected.
Against this backdrop, online therapies promise to be a cost-effective alternative, according to the university. Instead of going to a specialist, you can use digital help to learn behavioral therapy measures and treat yourself.
“We still know far too little”
However, researchers at the university’s Psychological Institute do not consider this accessible offer to be unproblematic. “We currently know far too little about the effectiveness of Internet-based therapies,” Birgit Watzke, professor of clinical psychology and psychotherapy research at the University of Zurich, said on the broadcast.
Watzke is one of the authors of a study recently published in the journal “Jama Psychiatry” that highlights the problems of Internet-based therapies. The researchers compared 109 clinical trials with a total of more than 18,000 participants, of which 57 studies involved traditional psychotherapies and 48 involved Internet-based therapies.
Online therapies with less stress
First author Mariia Merzhvynska examined the severity of depression in those affected. She found that patients with internet-based therapies are, on average, less stressed. In that respect, a comparison is difficult.
According to the researchers, it is also problematic that participants in many internet studies were able to classify themselves based on self-diagnosis. This opens the door for manipulation.
In addition, depression can occur along with other problems, such as personality disorders or psychotic disorders. An accurate diagnosis is important so that those affected are not prescribed ineffective therapies.
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