Depression is a worldwide disease. CBT-based self-help treatment allows patients with mild to moderate depression symptoms to improve their depression or to bridge the waiting- or pandemic period until they receive further clinical treatment.
This systematic review and meta-analysis aims to explore the efficacy, acceptability and improvement in quality of life of computer-delivered and/or internet-based CBT self-help interventions with minimal guidance (up to 10 min) for depression. The second aim was to compare the effectiveness of reducing depression symptoms at post-treatment of treatment by the type of minimal guidance: (1) e-mail, (2) telephone calls, (3) e-mail and telephone together, or (4) face-to-face.
The Cochrane depression, anxiety, and neurosis review group’s specialized register electronic searches, grey literature, reference lists and correspondence were used to search for published and unpublished RCTs that reported efficacy of computer- and/or internet-based CBT self-help treatments for depression with minimal guidance up to 10 min per week. Methodological quality of included studies was evaluated with Cochrane Collaboration tools for assessing risk of bias. The meta-analysis was accomplished using the RevMen software.
In total, 2809 study abstracts were checked for eligibility. Out of these, 19 studies (21 samples) with a total of 3226 participants were included. The results showed that concerning efficacy, the treatment group is superior to the control group with a medium to large effect size of 0.65. Also, treatment groups with combined guidance by e-mail and telephone calls together had greater effects (SMD -0.76) than groups with other types of minimal guidance (guided by e-mail SMD -0.63; guided face to-face SMD – 0.66; guided by telephone calls SMD -0.49). Findings showed also, that iCBT with minimal guidance had small but statistically significant effect size of 0.28 in improving quality of life. Moreover, there were higher drop-out rates in the treatment condition (RR 1.36) than in the control groups.
The results of this meta-analysis support the efficacy of computer- and/or internet-based CBT self-help programs with minimal weekly guidance up to only 10 min for improving depression symptoms at post-treatment for adults.
In addition, the results are pointing towards two practical implications. Firstly, depressed persons can use self-help treatment with minimal guidance at home to improve their symptoms or to bridge the waiting time – or pandemic period – before they receive professional face-to-face treatment. Secondly, it can help clinicians to make the decision about using CBT-based self-help treatments for patients that do not need urgent professional treatment, or to combine it with face-to-face therapy.