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Current perspectives on Internet delivered cognitive behavioral therapy for adults with anxiety and related disorders

Authors Mewton L, Smith J, Rossouw P, Andrews G

Received 4 October 2013

Accepted for publication 31 October 2013

Published 30 January 2014 Volume 2014:7 Pages 37—46

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S40879

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3


Louise Mewton, Jessica Smith, Pieter Rossouw, Gavin Andrews

Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia


Abstract: The aim of the current review is to provide a summary of research into Internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) for anxiety disorders. We include 37 randomized controlled trials that examined the efficacy of iCBT programs in adults (aged over 18 years), as compared with waiting list or active control. The included studies were identified from Medline searches and from reference lists, and only published data were included. Several trials of iCBT for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social phobia were identified. Two trials of iCBT for obsessive-compulsive disorder were identified, whilst one trial each was identified for hypochondriasis, specific phobia (spiders), and post-traumatic stress disorder. Finally, there were five trials that focused on transdiagnostic therapy for either a range of comorbid anxiety disorders or comorbid anxiety and depression. Between-group effect sizes were moderate to large for all disorders, and ranged from 0.30 to 2.53. iCBT was found to be commensurate with face-to-face cognitive behavioral therapy whether delivered individually or in group format. Guidance may not be necessary for iCBT to be effective for immediate gains, but may be more important in longer-term maintenance of symptom improvement and maximizing patient adherence. The clinical experience of the individual providing guidance does not appear to impact treatment outcomes. Future research needs to focus on the optimal level of guidance required to generate maximum patient benefits, whilst balancing the efficient use of clinician time and resources. Evidence-based contraindications to iCBT should also be developed so that the choice of treatment modality accurately reflects patients’ needs. Further research should be conducted into the effective elements of iCBT, as well as the extent to which therapy enhancers and advancing technology can be accommodated into established iCBT frameworks.

Keywords: Internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy, iCBT, anxiety disorders

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