There are several internet-based psychological treatments available for treating depression. Most of the commercially available treatments are based on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (Titov et al., 2014). Studies comparing internet-based therapy with face-to-face therapy demonstrate that internet-based treatments are as effective as face-to-face therapy (Andrews et al., 2010).
What to look for in an internet-based psychological treatment?
- Is there a fee or physician referral required to access the program?
- Has the program been evaluated for efficacy with at least one randomized controlled trial? Go to the research section of the program and look for the words “randomized” and “controlled” in the cited research as randomized controlled trials afford the highest level of evidence to support the effectiveness of an intervention.
- What therapies/treatment approach(es) does the program offer? Research mostly supports cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches as being effective for depression with some evidence to support the efficacy of behavioral activation, interpersonal psychotherapy, and acceptance-based treatment (Carlbring et al., 2013; Titov et al., 2014).
- Who is the program designed for? The program should be designed for individuals with depression with or without anxiety.
- Is the program interactive or only provides education about depression? Although education about depression may increase your knowledge about this condition, it is not a substitute for therapy-based interventions that interactive programs offer.
- Does the program allow users to monitor their progress/modules completion and mood over time? A key ingredient for self-management of depression is monitoring your symptoms to gauge if the treatment is effective.
- Does the program offer linking with a clinician or therapist (either your own clinician or a program-specific clinician)? What is the type of linkage (e.g., telephone, secure email, text message, etc.)? Research shows that clinician-guided programs have better outcomes and retention.
- Does the program offer worksheets, either printable for offline use or integrated throughout the program? Are these worksheets mandatory or optional?
- Does the program offer crisis or emergency contacts?
- Does the program offer an assessment at the beginning?
- Does the program offer additional features such as e-mail or text reminders?
- Does the program offer peer-support (e.g., forum, personal story sharing, or blogs)?
- Is the program available in the language of your choice?
- How is the content delivered: size of text, audio or video inputs, use of character examples, and case scenarios?
- What kind of personal or mental health information is required by the program and how is it kept confidential?