Dr Peter Cotton, a psychologist, writes in response to Gavin Andrew’s recent article on web-based treatment programs for depression, anxiety and other disorders:

“My initial response is that I think this is a very promising and potentially helpful development. It builds on, and is consistent with,  emerging research around the web-based delivery of programs for common mental health problems including depression, alcohol abuse and anxiety disorders.

The basic issue here is that – and notwithstanding concerns raised in some quarters about ‘the techologisation or dehumanisation of therapy’  – we know there are a range of effective non drug treatments for many of the presenting profiles of these common mental health problems. These treatments are typically relatively standardised and rely on cognitive-behaviour therapy principles.

Significant numbers of people suffering from these conditions cannot access appropriately trained mental health professionals who are competent in the delivery of these interventions (i.e., for example, many psychologists effectively deliver supportive counselling with a few ecelectic techniques thrown in, rather than systematic and structured interventions). Moreover, as we know, mental health professionals tend to be concentrated in metropolitan locations and there are serious issues around access to services for individuals in living in regional areas.

Hence, this type of development largely overcomes the tyranny of distance/access issue. Moreover, it is self-managed and arguably further fosters effective self management skills and reduces the need for utilisation of health services.

In the next decade or so, we know that we have to increase the focus on prevention and effective self management of chronic disease, including mental health problems because the demands on the health care system will be unsustainable. This type of intervention empowers individuals and increases the health care options available.”

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