childonlineComputerised cognitive behavioural therapy (cCBT) that does not use a human psychotherapist can have a positive effect on people experiencing depression, a small-scale study has found.

The study found that using animated ‘talking heads’ that are able to interact with and feedback the user’s activity in the form of speech, recognising achievements and providing support enabled participants to develop a meaningful relationship with the program and improve their condition.

cCBT helps to stimulate and empower
Participants reported that the cCBT program helped stimulate and empower them, and helped them to shape their confusion.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends that CBT should be offered to all patients with depression. The results of this study show that there are potential alternatives to expensive face-to-face therapies, according to the authors.

Seven participants, aged between 30 and 57, who had each experienced at least one prior episode of depression took part in the study. They used cCBT program Blues Begone as the focus of their self-help activity.

Meaningful relationships with the computer program

The Blues Begone program was designed to be used about 5 times a week, taking 8-12 weeks to complete. Each participant received a CD containing 30 episodes and provided individual assessment and tailored program of therapy within a CBT framework.

Dr David Purves, a practicing psychologist and creator of Blues Begone, said: “Although critics have argued that some of the most important elements of the therapeutic change process require a human therapist one of the particularly interesting themes to emerge from this study is that users felt they were able to develop meaningful relationships with the program.”

One participant, Caroline, said, “It sounds silly but you felt as if someone was on your side. The talking heads cheered you on and it did feel as though there was support, despite the fact that they were invented.”