Barriers to accessing psychologists for the treatment of depression and anxiety include a shortage of specialised therapists, long waiting lists, and the affordability of therapy. This study examined the efficacy of a computerised-based self-help program (MoodGYM) delivered in-conjunction with face-to-face cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to expand the delivery avenues of psychological treatment for young adults (aged 18–25 years). Eighty-nine participants suffering from depression and/or generalised anxiety were randomly allocated to a control intervention or to one of three experimental groups: receiving face-to-face CBT, receiving computerised CBT (cCBT), or receiving treatment in-conjunction (face-to-face CBT and cCBT). While MoodGYM did not significantly decrease depression in comparison to the control group, significant decreases were found for anxiety. MoodGYM delivered in-conjunction with face-to-face CBT is more effective in treating symptoms of depression and anxiety compared with standalone face-to-face or cCBT. This study suggests that for youth who are unable to access face-to-face therapy—such as those in rural or remote regions, or for communities in which there is stigma attached to seeking help—computerised therapy may be a viable option. This is an important finding, especially in light of the current capacity-to-treat and accessibility problems faced by youth when seeking treatment for depression and/or anxiety.
What is already known on this topic
1 Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety; however, only a minority of young adults seek treatment.
2 Young adults who are disinclined to seek face-to-face treatment use the Internet to access health information.
3 There is some evidence of effectiveness of online computerised programs to treat adult depression and anxiety.
What this paper adds
1 Computerised CBT holds significant potential to treat adolescent depression and anxiety for those individuals who may not have access to psychological treatment.
2 Therapy delivered solely via computerised methods is not as beneficial as face-to-face therapy in ameliorating symptoms of youth depression, anxiety, and distress.
3 Though computerised CBT may be an effective self-help tool for adolescents, there is a need to evaluate its suitability and efficacy within rural settings.