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Internet-Based Treatment for Panic Disorder: Does Frequency of Therapist Contact Make a Difference?

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Internet-based interventions with therapist support have proven effective for treating a range of mental health conditions. This study examined whether frequency of therapist contact affected treatment outcomes. Fifty-seven people with panic disorder (including 32 with agoraphobia) were randomly allocated to an 8-week Internet-based cognitive behavioural treatment intervention (Panic Online) with either frequent (three e-mails per week) or infrequent (one e-mail per week) support from a psychologist. Posttreatment, intention-to-treat analyses revealed that both treatments were effective at improving panic disorder and agoraphobia severity ratings, panic-related cognitions, negative affect, and psychological and physical quality of life domains, with no differences between conditions. High end-state functioning was achieved by 28.6% of the frequent and infrequent participants, respectively. Therapist alliance, treatment credibility, and satisfaction also did not differ between groups, despite significantly greater therapist time invested in the frequent contact condition. The results provide evidence that the effectiveness of Internet-based mental health interventions may be independent of the frequency of therapist support and may, therefore, be more cost-effective than previously reported.

Keywords: CBT treatment; Internet intervention; panic disorder; randomised controlled trial (RCT); therapist-assisted

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Life and Social Sciences, Swinburne University, Victoria 2: School of Psychology, Deakin University, Victoria 3: Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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