Computer-Based CBT Helps Kids & Teens with Anxiety and Depression

Researchers from Leuphana University and Friedrich-Alexander University in Germany; VU University and University of Utrecht in the Netherlands; and the Black Dog Institute in Sydney, Australia, conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate whether Computer- and Internet-based cognitive behavioral treatments (cCBT) are effective as a treatment alternative for regular, face-to-face treatment for the symptoms of anxiety and depression in adolescents and young adults.

The research team conducted systematic searches in the databases (Pubmed, Cochrane controlled trial register, PsychInfo) up to 2013. Only randomized controlled trials in which a computer-, internet- or mobile-based cognitive behavioral intervention that targeted either depression, anxiety or both, in children, adolescents and young adults, up to the age of 25, were compared to a control condition.

Searches resulted in identifying 13 randomized trials that included 796 children and adolescents/young adults that met the inclusion criteria. Seven studies were directed at treating anxiety, four studies at depression, and two targeted both anxiety and depression.

The overall mean effect size (Hedges' g) of cCBT on symptoms of anxiety or depression at post-test was g=0.72. The superiority of cCBT over controls was evident for interventions targeting anxiety (p < .001) and for interventions targeting depression (p < .001) as well as for both (p < .001).

The investigators conclude that there is evidence for the efficacy of cCBT in the treatment of anxiety and depressive symptoms in children, adolescents and young adults under 25, and that these interventions may be a promising treatment alternative when evidence based, face-to-face treatment is not feasible. They suggest that future studies should examine long-term effects of these treatments.

Citation: Ebert DD1, Zarski AC2, Christensen H3, Stikkelbroek Y4, Cuijpers P5, Berking M6, Riper H5. Internet and computer-based cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and depression in youth: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled outcome trials. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 18;10 (3): e0119895. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0119895. eCollection 2015.

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