top of page

Child Psychiatrist /Adult Psychiatrist

Remote CBT as Effective as In-Person Therapy for Mental Illness

Remote cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is just as effective as in-person CBT for a range of mental health and somatic disorders, a new review of more than 50 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) showed.

Therapy for Mental Illness

The RCTs included more than 5000 patients receiving CBT for conditions such as mood, anxiety, and body dysmorphic disorders, as well as chronic pain, insomnia, and alcohol use disorder.

"The World Health Organization has designated CBT as essential healthcare, but access remains an important barrier for many people in Canada. Our findings suggest that therapist-guided, remotely delivered CBT can be used to facilitate greater access to evidence-based care," lead investigator Jason Busse, PhD, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, said in a press release.

The findings were published online on March 18 in CMAJ.

Access Problematic

In Canada, CBT may be provided within existing government-funded healthcare services and by private providers such as registered psychotherapists, social worker, and psychologists who require out-of-pocket expenses.

Access to evidence-based mental healthcare such as CBT can be challenging in a country as geographically large, and as sparsely populated, as Canada. To increase access, some of the provinces have funded internet-based CBT, but the efficacy of in-person vs remote CBT remains uncertain.

The investigators searched the medical literature for RCTs that enrolled adult patients randomized to receive either therapist-guided remote or in-person CBT.

The study included 52 RCTs with 5463 participants with a mean age of 43 years, and 3354 (61%) were female.

A total of 17 studies focused on the treatment of anxiety and related disorders, 14 on depression and mood disorders, seven on insomnia, six on chronic pain or fatigue syndromes, five on body image or eating disorders, three on tinnitus, and one on alcohol use disorder.

CBT was provided on an individual and group basis. Treatment duration ranged from 5 to 21 sessions, with the median follow-up of 180 days.

Investigators found little to no difference in effectiveness between in-person and therapist-guided remote CBT on primary outcomes (standardized mean difference [SMD], −0.02; 95% CI, −0.11 to 0.07).

Analysis using end scores also showed little to no difference in efficacy between in-person and remote CBT (SMD, −0.01; 95% CI, −0.11 to 0.08).

Policy Implications

The authors noted that remote CBT can potentially expand access to care as it is more convenient for patients and potentially more cost-effective.

"Our finding that remote CBT is an effective alternative to in-person delivery has potential policy implications," they wrote.

The researchers recommended Canadian provinces and territories increase funding to boost access to therapist-guided remote CBT, thereby expanding access to evidence-based care.

Study limitations included the fact that most of the eligible RCTs reviewed in the analysis were conducted in high-income countries with middle-aged patients and followed them for a median 180 days, so generalizability of the findings to older patients living in lower-income patients or for longer follow-up periods was uncertain.

The study was partially funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Disclosures were noted in the original article.

This article originally appeared on Medscape

6 views0 comments


bottom of page