Internet Intervention: Is It Worthwhile?

For most eating disorders,
the answer is affirmative.

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
November/December Volume 24, Number 6
©2013 Gürze Books

There are many reasons that internet-based interventions for eating disorders might be a good idea for those with eating disorders. One is that most people with eating disorders do not seek treatment; another is that internet programs pose no geographic boundaries; and a third is that users retain greater control, flexibility, open access, and anonymity. All that said, a group of German psychotherapists sought to evaluate whether Internet interventions really work and if so which factors, such as length of treatment and degree of involvement by the therapist make the difference.

To answer these questions, Dr. Ruth Dlemeyer and a team at the University of Leipzig and Leipzig University Medical Center, Leipzig, Germany, analyzed 8 randomized controlled studies including 609 patients with eating disorders (BMJ Psychiatry 2013; 13:217).

The review and evaluation showed that all but one intervention were based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT); of the 7 studies based on CBT, 6 offered patients a guided self-help intervention through a book with tasks and homework, while the others developed and used a structured treatment program. The author concluded that internet-based interventions based on CBT principles may be a good alternative to face-to-face therapy for the treatment for eating disorders. This was especially true of internet-based guided self-help programs and of self-help books followed up and supported with email contact. Due to the small number of studies, conclusions related to differences among the disorders that were addressed and differences in assessment method used in each study were promising but not definitive, and they feel further research is needed.

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