Computerised Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

Our rating
Adults 2 smilies: This treatment is useful. It is supported by scientific evidence as effective, but the evidence is not as strong.
Children/adolescents 1 smilie: This treatment is promising and may be useful. It has some evidence to support it, but more evidence is needed to be sure it works.

What is it?

Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (cCBT) is a type of self-help therapy delivered via the internet. There are many cCBT programs such as Beating the Blues and moodgym. cCBT uses the same techniques a therapist would in face-to-face Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).

How does it work?

cCBT usually involves a number of interactive lessons. Lessons can be completed over several weeks, and usually one or two lessons are assigned for each week. These lessons show people how thoughts, feelings and behaviours are associated with depression. Clinician assisted cCBT is also available in which the patient can get support from a trained professional, either online, over the phone or in person.

Is it effective?

There is some scientific evidence on cCBT for the treatment of adult depression. A review of 20 randomised control trials showed that cCBT was effective at reducing symptoms of depression. cCBT may be best as a short-term treatment. A systematic review assessing cCBT for adult depression suggested it is not effective in treating depression long term.

There is very little scientific evidence on cCBT for the treatment of depression in childhood and adolescence. More studies are needed to ensure cCBT works for this age group.

There is very little scientific evidence on whether fully self-guided or clinician assisted cCBT is more effective for both adults and children.

Are there any disadvantages?

Privacy may be an issue as cCBT is delivered over the internet. Users of such programs should ensure they access legitimate websites and understand how their information will be kept private. CCBT also requires access to computers and for patients to be computer literate.

Where do you get it?

cCBT is delivered over the internet. There are a range of cCBT programs people can try include Beating the Blues and moodgym.

Recommendation

cCBT Therapy appears to be an effective treatment for depression in adults in the short term. cCBT seems to be a promising treatment for depression in children and adolescents. More research is needed to be sure it is effective for this age group.

Key references

  • Hedman, E., Ljotsson, B., & Lindefors, N. (2012). Cognitive behavior therapy via the Internet: a systematic review of applications, clinical efficacy and cost-effectiveness. Expert Rev Pharmacoecon Outcomes Res, 12(6), 745-764.
  • Richardson T, Stallard P, Velleman S. Computerised cognitive behavioural therapy for the prevention and treatment of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents: a systematic review. Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2010; 13:275–290.
  • So, M., Yamaguchi, S., Hashimoto, S., Sado, M., Furukawa, T. A., & McCrone, P. (2013). Is computerised CBT really helpful for adult depression?-A meta-analytic re-evaluation of CCBT for adult depression in terms of clinical implementation and methodological validity. BMC Psychiatry, 13(1), 113.

Last reviewed and updated: 1 December 2016