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Virtual Happiness Therapy as Effective as Face-to-Face

Woman at therapy

Traditional “couch-therapy” continues to lose ground to technology driven psychotherapeutic interventions.

Researchers studying the impact of virtual therapy report face-to-face sessions  have little-to-no advantage over Internet-Age innovations.

Since the advent of the Internet-Age, psychologists and therapists have looked for ways to extend their reach using virtual technology. Not surprisingly, the concept has met with violent opposition from a school of psychologists convinced that nothing can replace face-to-face therapy sessions.

To shed light on the controversy, a group of researchers reporting in the Journal of Technology in Human Services performed a meta-analysis of Internet-based psychotherapeutic intervention studies. After assessing a decade of research on the subject, the investigators found that virtual therapy works as well, and in some instances better than traditional therapy.

Effect Size

The researchers used statistical analysis to determine an Effect Size (ES) expressed as a number between 0 and 1 to rate how well Internet-based therapy worked. The overall ES for virtual therapy was found to be 0.53 (medium effect) which is about the same as the average effect size of traditional face-to-face therapy.

The impact was age related with adults between the ages of 25 and 39 benefiting the most. The ES for this age group has a medium-high effect score of 0.62.

Highest Effect Size Scored by Anxiety Sufferers 

People suffering from anxiety and experiencing problems controlling thoughts and nervous behaviors respond best to virtual therapy. The average effect size for individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was a whopping 0.88. This is an extremely important finding because millions of adults are exposed to devastating events every year. Shortly after traumatic exposure a growing number of individuals experience symptoms including flashbacks, emotional numbing and difficulty sleeping.

PTSD is notoriously difficult to treat. A June 2013 review of face-to-face PTSD therapy effectiveness published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine reports dismal results. The authors poured through 2,563 published studies vainly seeking a set of best therapeutic practices. Only 19 studies met their inclusion criteria and the authors were unable to offer any conclusions except to point out the need for new research. They recommended immediate attention from funding agencies, clinicians, researchers, policymakers, and other public health authorities.

Perhaps if the authors had thought to include the ES of PTSD treated online that at least a baseline set of best practices could be established.

General anxiety disorders are also especially well treated virtually. The average effect size was 0.80. In contrast, problems involving a physical component as well as an emotional component were least effectively treated. For example, the lowest ES score was for weight loss with an effect size of 0.17.

Clinical Trial Proves the Point

Researchers from the University of Zurich conducted a clinical trial to determine the efficacy of online versus  conventional face-to-face psychotherapy. They enrolled 62 patients suffering from moderate depression and divided them into two equal groups. One group received traditional treatment and the other group was treated virtually.

The results, published in the July 2013 issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders demonstrate that patients who underwent online therapy actually fared better. Depression disappeared in 53 percent of the online group compared to 50 percent of face-to-face therapy group.Further, three months after completing the treatment, the depression rate in patients treated online decreased whereas those treated conventionally actually increased. The percentage of online patients no longer suffering from depression increased from 53 to 57 percent while the number of conventionally treated patients who were no longer depressed dropped from 50 to 42 percent.

Want to get Happy? Get Online!

These studies are sooo encouraging for those of us working on the Y55 Happiness Trainer. They prove virtual connection is a powerful force in combatting depression and anxiety. Even better, because the Y55 Happiness Trainer will be available for free download, everyone will be able to afford happiness training! We need your help getting this desperately needed mobile app out to the world. Please support our Indiegogo campaign here.

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