Texting can be an effective form of psychotherapy
By SHERYL KAY • Published: December 18th, 2009
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It allows us to Tweet, be in touch with our children in real time, or send immediate notes to the boss who’s out of town. Now instant messaging via the Internet is being used in psychotherapy, and it seems to be working.
Following a trend in exploring and applying technology-based treatments for a host of mental health issues, researchers conducted a study to determine the feasibility of using texting, or sending instantaneous messages, between therapist and patient.
Published in the special Global Mental Health edition of the journal Lancet, the eight-month study followed three-hundred patients diagnosed with depression.
Depression affects nearly 15 million adults in American, but even children can become clinically depressed.
In the study, individuals were randomly assigned to receive online therapy, or to be put on a waiting list for online therapy while they received usual therapy from their general practitioner. The online group received ten weekly fifty-five minute sessions, where patient and therapist communicated by sending instant messages back and forth.
After only four months, researchers noted that more than a third… thirty-eight percent… of the patients receiving the online therapy had significantly recovered from their depression. In contrast, only twenty-four percent of those in the control group improved. After eight months, the researchers found that forty-two percent of the intervention group had improved, compared with only twenty-six percent of the non-texting group.
The researchers concluded that while the method might seem unconventional and in-person communication is still always the best, ultimately therapy is successful when it’s easily available. For some, texting is just within arm’s reach… and recovery from what ails you may be just as close.