According to researchers at The Australian National University in Canberra, spending time on therapeutic and educational web sites may be just as effective as regular visits to the psychotherapist.

Researchers studied a group of patients who were referred to two web sites: The MoodGYM and education site BluePages. The MoodGYM is a cognitive behavior therapy site dedicated to preventing depression by helping users to identify and overcome difficult emotions, and showing them how to develop good coping skills, in order to improve their mental health. BluePages is a depression education site, providing information about the symptoms of and treatments for depression.

After 12 months, users of both web sites reported improvement. The educational site BluePages was more effective than the behavior-therapy site. BluePages users were “less likely to use actions that did not have an evidence basis,” researcher Helen Christensen said.
It is possible that the web sites are effective because the willingness to use the web sites shows the kind of initiative needed to successfully treat depression. Someone who is visiting an educational site like BluePages is taking the necessary steps with their own self-care, which is a crucial step in successful treatment.

Benefits of online therapy:

  • It can make therapy accessible to people who live in rural areas or are housebound.
  • Online therapy is a good way for people who are new to counselling and too embarrassed or intimidated to participate in face-to-face therapy to try it out.
  • It is of value for people who want therapy but prefer to maintain complete anonymity.