Computer-Based and Online Therapy for Depression and Anxiety in Children and Adolescents

Stasiak, Karolina; Fleming, Theresa; Lucassen, Mathijs F. G.; Shepherd, Matthew J.; Whittaker, Robyn and Merry, Sally N. (2016). Computer-Based and Online Therapy for Depression and Anxiety in Children and Adolescents. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 26(3) pp. 235–245.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1089/cap.2015.0029

Abstract

Objective: The purpose of this study was to provide an overview of computer-based and online therapies (e-therapy) to treat children and adolescents with depression and/or anxiety, and to outline programs that are evidence based or currently being researched.

Methods: We began by defining the topic and highlighting the issues at the forefront of the field. We identified computer and Internet-based interventions designed to prevent or treat depression or anxiety that were tested with children and young people <18 years of age (or inclusive of this age range together with emerging adults). We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs). We summarized available relevant systematic reviews.

Results: There is an increasing body of evidence that supports the use of computers and the Internet in the provision of interventions for depression and anxiety in children and adolescents. A number of programs have been shown to be effective in well-designed RCTs. Replication and long-term follow-up studies are needed to confirm results.

Conclusions: There are now a range of effective computerized interventions for young people with depression and anxiety. This is likely to impact positively on attempts to make psychological therapies widely available to children and young people. We expect to see increased program sophistication and a proliferation of programs in the coming years. Research efforts, when developing programs, need to align with technological advances to maximize appeal. Implementation research is needed to determine the optimal modes of delivery and effectiveness of e-therapies in clinical practice. Given the large number of unproven program on the Internet, ensuring that there is clear information for patients about evidence for individual programs is likely to present a challenge.

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