Application of computer technology and Internet in mental health care

Zurich 02 November 2005In the Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics Vol. 74, No. 6, 2005, Dr. Paul M.G. Emmelkamp from the Department of Clinical Psychology at the University of Amsterdam reviews the application of computer technology and the use of the Internet in mental health care. A number of on-line screening devices have been developed for anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and substance abuse disorders, with great potential for clinical practice. On-line assessment is generally equivalent to clinical assessment.


A number of studies have shown that self-help treatment programmes on stand-alone computers are as effective as routine clinical care. The Internet enhances the therapeutic possibilities of computers by offering feedback of therapists and more tailor-made treatment. A number of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) have shown that Internet-based treatment is more effective than no-treatment and as effective as face-to-face treatment.

Research so far has been limited to anxiety disorders, burn-out, depression, headache, insomnia, tinnitus and obesity. Further, exposure through virtual reality has been found effective in a number of RCTs in specific phobias, but results with respect to the effects of the use of virtual reality techniques to other disorders are inconclusive. It is concluded that computer-driven assessment and treatment has many advantages and few disadvantages. A number of reasons are discussed which will preclude large-scale implementation of computer-driven assessment and therapy in the near future.

The International Federation for Psychotherapy (IFP) is an organisation of national, regional, and school-oriented psychotherapy societies. Its goals are to facilitate and promote international communication among the various schools, professional groups and cultures within psychotherapy. The IFP organises international congresses and conferences on psychotherapy. The IFP promotes the development of psychotherapy in practice, teaching and research and encourages and supports appropriate standards in the practice of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics is the official journal of the IFP.

Leslie Versweyveld

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