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January 2011



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Crystal Ladiges

Researchers at Swinburne University’s National eTherapy Centre (NeTC) have developed an effective online treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a debilitating mental health condition frequently associated with psychiatric depression and diminished quality of life, and it typically follows a chronic, often lifelong, course.

Treatment of the disorder typically takes 9-12 weeks and is conducted in face-to-face sessions. However, PTSD Online is the first online treatment of patients with clinically diagnosed PTSD with therapist support by email only.

Preliminary post-treatment findings published in the journal Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, showed participants experienced significant reductions in PTSD clinical severity and related symptoms.

Over the course of 10 weeks, sixteen participants experiencing a variety of trauma problems took part in an internet-based therapist-assisted trial. Participants were provided with a unique login and password and were able to communicate with a therapist via encrypted email.

The treatment program required participants to complete 10 interactive modules which covered anxiety management, cognitive behavior strategies and relapse management.

The results suggest that PTSD Online appears to be an effective and accessible clinical treatment for people with a confirmed PTSD diagnosis,” said Co-Director of NeTC, Associate Professor Britt Klein.

The findings are particularly encouraging for the provision of mental health treatment in rural and regional areas. Access to face-to-face specialist services in these areas is restricted by availability, cost and social stigmas related to mental illness.

Internet-based therapist-supported treatments offer an alternative and convenient treatment that can reach those who are either geographically isolated or unable to access specialist mental health professionals locally,” said Klein.

PTSD Online was funded by Australian Rotary Health and is part of a suite of online treatment services for Australian residents that will form Anxiety Online, the world’s first virtual clinical assessment and treatment clinic for anxiety disorders. Anxiety Online is funded by the Federal Department of Health and Ageing and will be launched in late October.

Klein B, Mitchell J, Gilson K, et al. A Therapist-Assisted Internet-Based CBT Intervention for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Preliminary Results. Cogn Behav Ther. 2009 Jun;38(2):121-13   [Abstract]

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