New research out of the Australian National University has found that cognitive behavior therapy and educational based websites can be effective in treating some forms of depression.

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Researchers studied a group of patients who were referred to two web sites: The MoodGYM and education site BluePages. The MoodGYM is therapeutic in nature, a cognitive behavior therapy site dedicated to preventing depression by helping users to “identify and overcome problem emotions,” showing them how to “develop good coping skills for the future” in order to enjoy good 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. Interestingly enough, the educational site BluePages proved to be 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. “We don’t know exactly why the Internet interventions are so effective in the longer term, but it may be that there is a reduction in use of ineffective and potentially damaging treatments.”
“In some ways the results are not that surprising,” psychotherapist Kerry DeVries told Ars Technica. “Cognitive behavioral strategies—sometimes in conjunction with medication—are the most effective means of treating depression.” DeVries also believes willingness to use the web sites shows the kind of initiative needed to successfully treat depression. “A person who is visiting an educational site like BluePages is taking the necessary steps with her own self-care. That’s a key component of successful treatment for depression.”

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