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On the 16th of November, the second yearly award ceremony took place for the most deserving solution focused help provision project in Flanders. The ‘Alfred 2013’ this year goes to the online self-help program 15 Minutes 4 Me.

The Alfred-award is a new initiative from theFlemish Association of Experts in the Solution focused systemic therapy (VVDO). THe founder of the groundbreaking solution focused computer program is Paul Koeck, MD. THe Antwerp doctor has, after his education in medicine and philosophy in Louvain, gotten familiar with the solution focused cognitive systematic therapy at the Korzybski institute at Brugge.

New therapeutic option

More than a thousand people have by now participated in the internet program 15 Minutes 4 Me, which has soon existed for three years. Both people with a pure stress-bound disorder (such as depression, anxiety, or burnout) and people with a psychosomatic disorder which is caused by stress can – after paying 55 euros – find online self-help. The program can be considered to be an extra option when it comes to therapeutic treatments. Half of the participants follow the program for a month, while the other half continues right away or months later.

According to Koeck, MD, there are many people who do not go to a psychologist or psychiatrist due to a fear of having to tell their entire life story: “This internet program makes it so that people, who do not want to take that step, still find their way to proper help. Except for psychotherapy orpsychopharmaceuticals, it forms one of the elements in the treatment of stress-bound disorders. The new internet therapy can perfectly be used as an addition to treatment which is provided by a doctor or therapist. The patient thus gets an extra option. The program can also be used to overcome waiting lists, or to work asaftercare after one gets out of the hospital or after psychotherapy.

Less stress, more contentment, and more change of behavior

Koeck, MD, developed the self-help model in 2008, working together with psychiatrist Luc Isebaert as well as several international colleagues. He launched the new therapeutic instrument without any government subsidies. From a pilot study using 37 participants, it was shown that 77% stress reduction and 40% more contentment in life was present after a month. A scientific follow-up study using the first thousand participants is on its way. Working closely together with vzw Doctors for Doctors, a new burnout module for doctors will also be integrated in the 2.0 version.
Koeck, MD, highlights that each patient can autonomously choose between different modules: “Every week, he or she can pick a different module (with solution focused questions and psycho-educational film clips) on top of the core program. This latter contains repetitive elements which make it so that the new way of thinking becomes a habit and gets a constant character. Also, the freedom of choice increases the compliance. Treatment can namely only give results if the patient himself feels good about it.

The chance of a consistent change of behavior is thus increased because the patient him/herself chooses which habit he or she wants to change. Every week, the patient also gets a report with evolution graphs on top of this. Finally, doctor Koeck states that this small-step initiative causes more men to dare to look for help, while women are more likely to pick conversational therapy.
Article by Johan Waelkens

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