Interapy (Internet-Based Therapy)

Rating

Category: Allied Health Options

What is it?

Interapy is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) principles and involves delivery of therapy over the internet rather than face-to-face. Online therapy is based on written communication and behavioural writing assignments which are overseen by therapists who individually guide the client through the program. Three treatment phases over several weeks are tailored to clients' specific needs.

How does it work?

Interapy is delivered online in three phases. In the first phase the therapist helps the client to focus on their painful images and thoughts and then to write about them. In the second phase patients receive education about cognitive restructuring and are helped to form a new perspective on the traumatic event and to regain a sense of control. In the third phase clients receive education about the positive effects of sharing their experiences with others and are assisted to symbolically find emotional closure through reflecting on the trauma, their experience of therapy, and planning future coping strategies.

Is it effective?

This is an emerging treatment and as such the evidence to support Interapy is limited. The two studies to date have found that this therapy significantly improved the severity of PTSD symptoms. Additionally, co-existing symptoms of depression and anxiety were also improved significantly for those undergoing Interapy.

Are there any disadvantages?

Interapy requires access to the internet and is only suitable for people who are comfortable using written forms of communication. Interapy may be offered as part of, or in combination with, other interventions for PTSD.

Where do you get it?

As an emerging therapy Interapy may not be widely available. The current research has been conducted in Germany and the Netherlands. It is recommended that people seeking help for PTSD consult a registered health provider.

What are the evidence limitations?

In the 2003 study participants were not diagnosed using the DSM-IV. In the 2007 study diagnosis was made over the internet using the DSM-IV. Diagnosis over the internet may not be a valid way of assessing or diagnosing PTSD and thus should be approached with caution.

Recommendations

Current evidence for Interapy is limited. Although there is some evidence to support this therapy, much more evidence is needed to establish this practice as one which produces consistent and sustainable positive outcomes.

Key References

Knaevelsrud, C & Maercker, A 2007, ‘Internet-based treatment for PTSD reduces distress and facilitates the development of a strong therapeutic alliance: a randomized controlled clinical trial’, BMC Psychiatry, vol. 7, no. 13, pp. 1-10.

Lange, A, Rietdijk, D, Hudcovicova, M, Van de Ven, JP, Schrieken, S & Emmelkamp, PMG 2003, ‘A controlled randomized trial of the standardized treatment of posttraumatic stress through the Internet’, Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, vol. 71, pp. 901-909.

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