It is known as computerized cognitive behavioral therapy or CCBT. Mental health professionals created it for internet users who are unable to meet with a therapist for psychological reasons.
Although its effectiveness remains controversial among clinical psychologists, it’s safe to say that computer-mediated counseling has its share of advantages, in particular for those who suffer from severe anxiety disorders like social phobia, for example.
Research on the usefulness of CCBT began in 2008 following interest by several clinical psychologists both in the US and the UK.
Azy Barak, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Haifa — who now is among the few specializing in Cyberpsychology — has been credited as one of the first psychologists to research cybernetic therapy.
In 2009 Barak initiated a study that provided convincing evidence to the American Psychology Association (APA) about the benefits of cybertherapy on patients with mild anxiety and depression.
However, as the study entered its early stages of acceptance, an inordinate number of respected psychologists slammed the online treatment putting weight on its ethical guidelines and license system.
But that didn’t stop the new form of therapy from expanding into one of the most controversial studies in the field of psychology.
Barak’s controversial study sparked more research on CCBT and received the nod from the UK’s National Health Service, naming it: “the preferred method of treatment for mild-to-moderate presentations of anxiety and depression.”
Today, as more research are in the works, online therapy websites have started to appear for those who prefer computer-aided therapy over the usual face-to-face kind.
Sites like CBTProgram, Serenity Programme, and CCBT Solutions, are giving patients 24/7 access to online therapy sessions, specializing in a variety of disorders such as PTSD, phobias, major depressive disorders, among others.
One such site, CBTProgram, promotes its effectiveness on the homepage with the following statement.
“Our commitment to bettering the minds of those suffering from mental distress has allowed us to create programs recognized by the NHS as a standard procedure of care. Our programs have been tested in randomized controlled trials for proven results,” as stated on the homepage.
Based on these sites, CCBT appears to be cheaper than conventional psychotherapy. However, prices widely depend on the type of disorder and the patient’s location.
You can expect to pay around $50 USD per hour, which according to several sites, includes full access to telephone support, session videos, and progression worksheets.
50 dollars for therapy? Now, you’re probably wondering, how effective is CCBT?
I decided to pay the social anxiety support forums a visit where I found some interesting feedback.
After doing some research on the discussion boards, I managed to interview five social phobic patients who formerly utilized online therapy from one of the sites listed in this article.
Out of the five patients, only two felt relief in their symptoms of isolation, persistent fear of embarrassment and social awkwardness, following 2 to 4-week sessions of CCBT.
What does this say about the state of cybertherapy?
It may very well be that keyboards could replace clipboards in the near future. However, considering that we’re still in the early stages of understanding cyberpsychology, there’s more room for further research and improvement, especially considering that the majority of the general population doesn’t even know that the field exists.