Will the Internet change the way we access psychological therapy?

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Self-help approaches to psychological therapy are not new; just visit your local bookstore to see the array of publications available for purchase.

However, research has shown that to be effective, self-help requires some kind of guidance and in the past this has usually been in the form of telephone support. Will the Internet change the way we approach self-help?

Professor Gerhard Andersson, Linköping University, Sweden, thinks this is inevitable. In his keynote address to the Australian Psychological Society’s 40th Annual Conference in Melbourne this week, Andersson will discuss how, since the advent of the Internet and its spread into the daily life of patients and clinicians, the concept of using the Internet to deliver minimal contact therapy is showing promising outcomes.

“Separate research teams worldwide have now tested Internet-based self-help with minimal therapist contact - often via e-mail - and found that this novel treatment approach leads to major reductions of symptoms in a wide range of patient groups,” says Andersson.

“Trials have shown that Internet-based self-help is effective in the areas of anxiety disorders, phobias and post-traumatic stress, while in the treatment of mood disorders, several trials have found promising results for major depression.”

Results show that for several such cases Internet-based self-help compared favorably with conventional therapy, according to Andersson.

“However, what has been clearly shown in many trials is that Internet-based self-help was superior to previous models of self-help,” says Andersson.

“The use of the Internet in psychological treatment is here to stay,” concludes Andersson.

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Professor Andersson is available for interview: contact Elaine Grant 0412 683 068.

The 40th Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference - from 28 September- 2 October at Crown Promenade, Melbourne, Australia.

Themed Past Reflections, Future Directions, the five-day program includes international scholars and psychologists, interactive workshops, themed days and streams provided by APS Colleges and Divisions, research papers and symposia and fora.