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New guidelines cove digital therapy for anxiety

7 May 2019

In recent years there has been an increase in the availability of digital therapy options for the support and treatment of people with anxiety, but we haven’t known much about their effectiveness.

New clinical practice guidelines developed by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) equip health professionals with the most up-to-date advice on the treatment of three common adult anxiety disorders, and provide greater clarity on the use of digital therapy.

Psychiatrists from all over Australian and New Zealand will delve deeper into these guidelines, in a presentation led by Associate Professor Lisa Lampe, at the annual RANZCP Congress, to be held in Cairns this month.

The guidelines are the result of an extensive process of collection and appraisal of evidence, which has involved health professionals, stakeholder organisations, expert peer review and people with a lived experience of anxiety disorders.

Associate Professor Lisa Lampe, a member of the RANZCP Anxiety Disorders Working Group said, ‘the new guidelines have allowed for a thorough review of the effectiveness of online and computer-based therapy for anxiety, and we now understand more about the strengths and weaknesses of this type of treatment’.

‘There exists a selection of digital therapies, which have now been evaluated, and there is a growing evidence base for the effectiveness of guided digital therapy in the treatment of anxiety.’

‘Guided therapy involves providing support for the person as they complete digital therapy modules. It has been known for some time that digital therapy can have high dropout rates; people start the therapy and do not finish.

‘We know the treatments work if people complete them, but have needed to better understand how to get more people finishing the treatments they start.

‘We now know that digital cognitive-behavioural therapy (eCBT) for the treatment of anxiety disorders is most effective as a collaborative treatment undertaken with the support of a health professional – this can be your general practitioner, psychologist or psychiatrist’, said Associate Professor Lampe.

‘There is good evidence to suggest that when we mix the use of therapy delivered online or by digital devices with the support and supervision of a health professional, it is less likely that people will stop their treatment.

‘Digital therapies provide an excellent introduction to anxiety and its treatment, as well as being effective in themselves,’ said Associate Professor Lampe.

‘It is important that patients are well-equipped with an understanding of what they should be expecting from treatment, and digital therapies can help with this, too, by explaining what the elements of effective treatment are.’

Associate Professor Lampe also emphasized that the use of digital therapies, as part of a suite of other treatment options and approaches, is a way of addressing barriers to people accessing treatment.

‘Digital therapy guided by your health professional is an important option for people in rural and remote communities who face a number of barriers which restrict access to mental health services.’

‘It is also important for people living in the city who are able to access this component of their treatment at a time and place of their choosing, and at little or no cost.’

For more information on anxiety, see Anxiety disorders – your guide. For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, our consumer health information website.


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