The current COVID-19 pandemic has driven many previously in-person services online, with remote work and service-delivery options. Most mental health providers, particularly therapists, transitioned from traditional in-person sessions to phone or video sessions. One could wonder about the effectiveness of this method, especially since much of therapy’s success derives from the connection between therapist and patient. A new study considers this question and has found that some therapy services are actually more beneficial when conducted remotely.
The study focused on remote delivery of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a form of therapy that focuses on a patient’s thoughts and behaviors and is very structured by nature. CBT is commonly used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. In a review of previous studies comparing in-person and remote delivery of CBT, researchers found that remote CBT was more effective for treating depression than face-to-face meetings. This includes video sessions, email, and texting. The findings indicated that patients who used remote services had a greater decrease in depressive symptoms than those who attended in-person sessions, though there was no difference in satisfaction between the two groups.
It is theorized that using remote therapy services can minimize some of the stressors associated with in-person appointments, such as travel time, transportation and parking costs, needing to take more time off of work. Being in one’s own home and having more flexibility with scheduling could support a decrease in mental health symptoms. Conversely, some individuals find it more difficult to utilize remote services from home due to limited privacy or poor internet connectivity. Making a treatment decision is a personal choice that should consider a variety of factors, but positive findings about remote delivery of CBT for depression may make some more comfortable with this method.