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Online therapy aims to help teens

Updated tisdag 3 februari 2015 kl 00.00
Published onsdag 4 februari 2015 kl 12.00
Online therapy study aims to help youth
(2:38 min)
Photo: Cleis Nordfjell / SvD / TT
Unlike this photo, which shows a therapy session where the patient is being helped in-person, the study will look into how effective online therapy is for teens. File photo: Cleis Nordfjell / SvD / TT

For young people suffering from depression or anxiety, sometimes reaching out for help can be too much to manage. 

A new study is lowering the threshold to seek help, by offering online therapy. But getting treatment on the Internet has its pros and cons. Can it be an effective way to help young people? The researchers behind the study, called DEA, are hoping to find out.

Sofie's problems with depression began when she was 16, and continued all through senior high school.She says she hated herself and that she had an extremely difficult time and never did well enough. She also had very unrealistic ideals for her body, she adds.

Sofie often didn't manage to go to school, she had suicidal thoughts, and hurt herself.

Now 19, and says that if she sees a pencil sharpener, she still gets a little shaky, because she used to unscrew the blade and often use it to harm herself.

It took several years before Sofie started getting treatment for her depression. She simply couldn't manage seeking help. Now, young people like her are the target group of a new study to see whether online cognitive behavioral therapy can help.

It already exists for adults, but in this study, researchers want to find out how well it works for teenagers.

Gerhard Andersson is leading the study. He's a psychology professor at Linköping University.

He says the online treatment can compliment the health care system, because there's a chance to reach people who are suffering from these kinds of problems a little earlier.

The study will focus on youth between 15 and 19 years old, and it consists partly of conversations with psychologists or psychologists-in-training via video and chat, but also of reading easy-to-understand texts.

Gerhard Andersson admits that in some ways, conducting treatments online isn't as good as doing it in person.

He says you do lose something. For example, it can be harder for the psychologist to see how a patient reacts to what he or she says. On the other hand, Andersson says that you do win something, because some people find it's tough to actually go in to see someone.

Sofie, the teenager who fought depression throughout her years in senior high school, says that it would have been good if the method had been around when she was most ill, but she doesn't believe that the whole treatment should happen online.

"It's an illness, and then, you still have to meet people too," says Sofie. She thinks that's a part of the process of getting better too, so you don't isolate yourself.

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