The Rise of Internet-Driven Behavioral Health Treatments

behavioral health

The Rise of Internet-Driven Behavioral Health Treatments

Many people who experience mental health issues do not receive appropriate and timely treatment for their problems. A person’s failure to seek therapy can be attributed to reasons ranging from accessibility and economic factors to social stigmatization. Unfortunately, individuals who do not seek out an assessment from a trained professional can face grave consequences Lack of treatment can have an impact on both the individual and society as a whole.

These days, however, some of the hurdles can be overcome by using digital technology that allows for computerized treatment.

The application of computers has been suggested for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  CBT — an extensively researched technique that proved effective for many mental health disorders — can now be administered with computer-based technology. For some individuals, this approach could complement, or potentially even substitute, for sometimes costly clinic-based therapy.  

The Online Couch: Computer-Aided Mental Health Treatments

Various technological forms are available for computer-based mental health treatments. Some of the most commonly used include Internet sites and platforms, chat rooms, virtual reality, interactive voice response systems and different computer programs and games.

The first computerized CBT treatment was developed in 1997 at the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College in London.

Dr. Judy Proudfoot and her team named it Beating the Blues (or BtB for short). Patients who used BtB made significantly more progress compared to those who received traditional therapy alone. This led the UK’s health providers to endorse the treatment and recommend BtB for patients who require CBT for depression and anxiety.

The computer-based self-help program has since also been adopted in the United States and was reviewed by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. 

Traditionally, CBT advocates a face-to-face approach. However, the trend of conducting a therapy session via phone or as a videoconference is on the rise. Some experts initially expressed their reservations regarding building a virtual relationship with a client. There were concerns that computer- or telephone-based therapy will not support the therapeutic rapport and alliance needed for therapeutic efficacy. But research on CBT therapy that uses e-therapy interventions showed that relationships are similar to those in face-to-face set-ups. Moreover, a study that compared telephone-delivered versus face-to-face CBT intervention demonstrated that comparable improvements in depression were made using either technique.

Next Generation Behavioral Health Platform by Prevail Health

In line with recent developments in Internet-driven mental health treatments, Prevail Health developed an online platform that is being used to engage people who require a mental health intervention in a scalable way.

The Chicago-based company is particularly focused on improving mental health services for war veterans. The company founder and CEO, Richard Gengler, is a veteran, so he recognized the need for a new approach to mental health for returning service personnel. Soldiers frequently return from war zones with various mental health issues; however, they often do not seek psychological help. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than half of the people who experience mental health issues do not initiate treatments. Gengler decided to address this gap and launched a computer program that aims to reach out to patients who were previously reluctant to engage in CBT. Since then, Prevail Health’s tools have been used by tens of thousands of people, and over 30,000 veterans have been helped through the innovative online platform.

In a recent press release, Prevail Health reported that using its technology resulted in significant savings for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The evidence-based Internet treatment not only improved access to health services for war veterans, but it also offered effective treatment for 1/30th the cost, resulting in a 14.8X return on investment for the VHA. The VHA will continue with the collaboration, and the plan is for Prevail’s technology to soon be made available to the civilian population as well. 

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