The magazine for Mental Health ‘Psyche’ by the VVGZ writes:
Fifteen minutes of online self-help per day reduces stress by 77%
Fifteen minutes of online self-help per day reduces stress by 77% after just one month. That is shown in the first results from the pilot project “15Minutes4Me.com”. Also, the life satisfaction of the participants of the eponymous online self-help program increased by 40% after three weeks.
More ‘curing’ for less money?
Waiting lists keep on growing while the economic crisis increases insecurity. Waves of unemployment make tens of thousands of families insecure. Distress increases. The prevalence of stress-bound disorders increases: anxiety disorders, hyperventilation, depression, burnout, psychosomatic complaints.
The financial measures of the government and the budgets for health care are reduced. So more output needs to be delivered with fewer resources: helping more people against a lower cost.
Five years ago ’15Minutes4Me.com’ started a think-tank to develop a model to help more people for a lower cost. This resulted in the online self-help program ’15Minutes4Me’.
The first results of an internal pilot study in September 2011:
Fifteen minutes of online self-help per day makes initial stress decrease by 77% on average. After one week, the participants of the online research project have a stress decrease of 27%, after two weeks stress decreases by 37%, after three weeks with 54% already and after fie weeks the average stress reduction is about 77%.
Furthermore, fifteen minutes daily of choice focused online self-help was enough to increase life satisfaction by 42% after three weeks. After one week, the average increase in satisfaction was 15% already.
Choice based self-help helps people to gain insight into which solutions work for them and which ones do not. The computer program guides them in this self-reflection, helping them to make better choices and to take the step to a happier life themselves. Each week, the program measures development via an objective stress test. The participant overcomes tension, depression, and stress from their living room. Just fifteen minutes per day of online self-help reduce stress by 77% after just one month.
Total stress reduction according to the total DASS-21 score (median):
Average stress reduction in participants as compared to their stress at the start (n=37)
After 1 week the stress reduces by one-quarter or 27% of their stress at the start
After 2 weeks by more than one-third or 37%
After 3 weeks by more than half or 54%
After 5 weeks by more than two thirds or 77%
Increasing life satisfaction (median)
Increase in life satisfaction in % (n=37):
The starting point is the average life satisfaction at the start of the program.
In 1 week the average life satisfaction increased by 17%
After 2 weeks by a third or 33%
After 3 weeks by 42%
How does the self-help program work?
Which therapeutic model does 15Minutes4Me follow?
In the development of the self-help program ’15Minutes4Me.com’ the only criterion to decide which techniques would or would not be included in the program was the measurable help it delivered to the desired end result: the solving of the complaints upon signing up, the life satisfaction of the patient and the reduction of their stress, anxiety, or depression.
We measure there parameters again each week and with a process of permanent improvement, the interventions which measurably add more to this goal are taken up into the program. So scientific measurability and evidence are of the utmost importance.
In practice however, it shows that concepts from certain therapeutic models are easier to integrate into an automated self-help program. Methods of which we integrated several best practices include, but are not limited to:
- Solution focused cognitive therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Systematic thinking and family therapy
- REBT by Albert Ellis
- Ericksonian (self)hypnotherapy
- Visualisation techniques, breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, yoga
- Management principles like time management, priority management, management by objectives, Pareto analysis, …
A new therapeutic class?
About a century ago, psychoanalysis was developed, and a few decades later the first psychopharmacies and short types of psychotherapy like behavioral therapy, systematic therapy, Rogerian, gestalt, and much more followed.
Our vision is that online self-help introduces the development of a new therapeutic class. The patient has an extra choice, other than medication or traditional therapy. The patient or prescribing doctor can choose to combine self-help with medication or traditional therapy in the future. Some patients like talking when looking for solutions, while others prefer doing it on their own, and yet another group of people prefer to start off with a simple self-help program. After this, they might have the courage to make an appointment with a help provider. We notice that mainly men pick self-help over traditional therapy.
Is healing without ’empathetic relation’ possible?
Empathy is an economically expensive way to motivate patients to choose to help themselves. For some patients, this expensive resource is necessary. There, however, is another, growing class of people who are willing to help themselves, if provided with the proper professional tools: In self-help, the patient chooses to develop their own new habits and the software program offers them the knowledge or guidance in order to work toward the desired result. It is built on a belief in the feeling of responsibility in the individual and the ability to make correct choices, provided that the necessary tools are available.
The first experiences show that motivated people who are willing to spend fifteen minutes per day on online self-help get good results. The anxious or tense participant is generally very loyal to therapy and therefore a thankful participant to refer to the program. Depressed patient respond well to the program, provided that enough support is given to keep going during difficult days. In this case the support of a buddy or help provider is useful to motivate them to keep going every day.
Self-help can be used as ‘self-help’ for the ‘non-psychiatric’ stress-bound problems.
Often it is recommended to let motivated patients start he online self-help program while they are on a waiting list, and to evaluate whether self-help suffices or needs to be complemented by psychotherapy at the hand of an evolution report, filled in after about three weeks.
For psychiatric patients, the treating psychiatrist is to estimate if self-help would be a useful addiction to learn to handle the stress component which often can influence the symptoms and their severity. Here, the program can have a stabilizing influence under the supervision of the psychiatrist, as the daily character of the program often helps create a daily structure for the participant.
The ambition which we had when developing the self-help program ’15Minutes4Me’ was to create an instrument which, with time, would help millions of people to reduce their stress and stress-bound complaints and to increase their life joy.
We are currently working on the development of new modules so we can help more people via this self-help program. In case you have suggestions from work experience as to which modules would be useful for the target group with which you work, we would appreciate it if you could let us know. Mail your input or question to self-help (at) 15minutes4me.com so that we can contact you in order to see how we can help your target group in a better way by altering the program to fit your needs.
Paul Koeck, MD