Instant messaging aids those with depression
In a follow up to Mondays story about those suffering from depression receiving online counselling, a recent story featured in The Guardian reported that research shows instant messaging has been proven to help.
That ping of the instant message window popping up may now just seem like a reminder to many, of our yester years of youth. Hours spent with our eyes fixatedly staring at the screen chatting to friends we had only seen a matter of minutes ago at school. However, new research shows that instant messaging can be used as an aid to help those recovering from depression.
Everyone finds release in a good verbal venting of our problems so its not surprising that researchers have found online talking treatments using instant messaging can help people recover from depression. As reported on Monday, the access to online treatment could make psychological therapies more widely available and help those who find it difficult to visit a therapist, but today we can report that online therapy has more benefits than just increasing availabilty.
It is common that British patients can often wait more than a year to receive talking treatment for depression due to such a shortage of therapists. According the Mental Health Foundation 78% of GPs have prescribed antidepressant drugs through lack of alternative treatment. In America, drugs for depression are the most commonly prescribed of all medications.
Several ways of using technology to help people access care and reduce the number of patients who don’t receive treatment have been explored. Self help books, computer programme’s based on Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and therapy have been offered over the phone and via email. Now a new study has looked at whether CBT can work if it is offered entirely through instant messaging, using a password protected computer screen.
The BUPA Foundation, an independent charity that receives funding from BUPA, recently commissioned a study that looked at 297 people, most of whom suffered from anxiety and depression. Half had up to 10 one hour long sessions of therapy where they used instant messaging to chat one to one with a trained therapist. The other half received usual care from the GP.
The study found that about 4 in 10 people who had online therapy improved to the point where they were no longer depressed, compared to only 2 in 10 of those who received care from the GP. The benefits of therapy lasted at least eight months.
The researchers found that although they didn’t compare online therapy with its traditional face to face counterpart, the benefits are similar. The researchers think that for some it could be easier to write down their problems as apposed to discussing them in a face to face situation. Another advantage is that people can save their online sessions, allowing them to re-read the discussion with their therapist if they need to.
Instant messaging therapy isn’t just a last resort because the waiting list for original therapy is too long. It is a welcome alternative for those who find it difficult to discuss their problems face to face and as reported, it clearly has its benefits.