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Online Therapy for Depression Works

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What’s the best next step after you’ve received counseling for symptoms of depression?  New research finds that an at-home, distance-based computer program aimed at maintenance after therapeutic programs have been reduced or are no longer needed reduce the risk of becoming depressed again.

After stopping counseling for depression, there is an increased risk that the patient will deal with issues which can cause depressive symptoms and depression to resurface.  Online programs which focus on Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy can be instrumental in keeping these problems at bay.   

The digital program is Mindful Mood Balance (MMB) and was created by clinical psychologist and Professor Zindel Segal.  The program integrates mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy to keep patients’ skills for managing their emotions and adapting in positive ways fresh at home after treatment has concluded.

Research has shown that this type of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can be equally as helpful as antidepressant medication, but it’s hard to find in-person programs outside of metropolis areas.  By bringing the program online, Professor Segal is making it accessible to everyone.

The program has been tested in a clinical trial in Colorado.  Its recent results were published in JAMA Psychiatry and demonstrated positive effects on decreasing anxiety and depressive symptoms.  It also showed an ability to stop relapses into depression from happening, while improving patients’ quality of life.  Patients who used both the MMB program and in-person therapy achieved better results than those in standard care by itself.

 The potential of the MMB program is that it can bridge gaps between times of conventional, in-person therapy and offer a lifeline of support for those whose therapy visits are infrequent, whether it’s due to financial or insurance logistics or a tapering schedule decided by the patient and therapist.  Additionally, practicing the mindfulness techniques in a home setting can make it easier to incorporate in daily life and may help some patient reach a point where they are able to use the techniques on their own, building self-confidence and self-reliance.

References

Zindel V. Segal, Sona Dimidjian, Arne Beck, Jennifer M. Boggs, Rachel Vanderkruik, Christina A. Metcalf, Robert Gallop, Jennifer N. Felder, Joseph Levy. Outcomes of Online Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Patients WithResidual Depressive SymptomsJAMA Psychiatry, 2020; DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.4693

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