SELF-HELP POSSIBLY POSES SOLUTION FOR WAITING LISTS MENTAL HEALTH CARE
For those who fight with anxiety attacks or a burnout, but do not dare to take the step toward a psychiatrist or psychologist, or for those who end up on a long waiting list, there is an alternative available: an online mode. 'You are more active with it than you are when you visit a doctor once a week.' Sometimes it takes weeks or even months of waiting before people with depressions, a burnout, or anxiety attacks get the help which they need. The waiting lists in mental healthcare are long. Paul Koeck, doctor and external researcher at the university of Bergen, found a solution for these waiting lists: online therapy. This shows to help patients more quickly than they move up on the waiting lists. Koeck developed 15minutes4me.com, an online module where patients with psychiatric issues log into on a daily basis. This module works well - for just 55 euros per month - as shown in an analysis which Koeck presented today on the Flemish Mental Healthcare Congress. ‘In more than half of the 1056 patients, the stress had reduced to acceptable levels after three weeks of online help. Furthermore, almost everyone - about 97 percent - stopped using the program only after their complaints had fully disappeared, or until they at least felt better than they did when they logged in for the first time.' ‘At the congress I will propose to colleagues to do a follow-up study where their patients on the waiting lists are offered online help.'
How does the online therapy work?
‘In the beginning you take a free test, to decide where you are standing. After that, you are meant to take fifteen minutes each day for the module. You get to see videos regarding how the brain works: what happens in a depression or during an anxiety attack? The program also asks you questions. For example, which habits help you to stop worrying. From the second week onwards, you start working on your specific problem, such as anxiety or stress.'
And after a month, all your problems will have been solved?
‘Themodule is not a gadget or an app which you click every once in a while. During a month, you need to take quiet moments in which you practise. Those who need more time than a month, can extend the period to two or three months.'
How do you explain the success of the module?
‘The participants of the online therapy really want to work on their problems. They are open to help. That is an important requirement, which is also present in classic healthcare.' ‘The patients say that it seems that they invest less time in online therapy than they would if they were to visit a doctor or psychologist. They do not need to go anywhere for an appointment, but can rather log in when this suits them. All together, they of course do spend more time on their online therapy than they would if they were to visit a doctor just once a week.'
Will the computer replace the psychologists and psychiatrists?
‘No. The online therapy is an addition, especially for people who prefer to remain anonymous and for whom the step toward classic healthcare is too big.' ‘The percentage of men who use our online help almost reaches half, while classic healthcare sees that only about one in five patients is a man. They do not speak about their issues as easily as women do.' ‘Every week, we e-mail the patients a report for their doctor. Those who choose to do so, can discuss this report with their doctor. But we do not force any patients to do so, because that would once again increase the step toward getting help.' De Standaard interview with Paul Koeck, MD, from 15Minutes4Me.com Results from a study on 1056 patients with stress, burnout, anxiety, or depressed complaints. Download and read the full Dutch article: (pdf) Online therapy is not a gadget, it helps