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Bill English asked to show evidence for E-therapy claims

Psychotherapists call out Bill English to show evidence for E-therapy claims

“The prime minister was premature in suggesting e-therapy works as well as face-to-face in the leaders’ debate. The evidence is minimal and contradictory and so far confined to treating depression with one modality only (CBT)” says Sean Manning, Dunedin psychotherapist.

“It is foolhardy in the extreme to suggest that the internet can offer a cheap substitute for face-to-face assessment and treatment. The development of online modules to help with psychological issues is a very new development, largely untested, with evidence coming only from a small number of studies using small samples, and with no follow-up beyond a few months.” he said.

NZAP members have searched but say they can find little evidence e- therapy is as effective as face to face counselling.

Some therapists in the Association use forms of e-therapy such as Skype which still provides an individualized treatment. One size fits all therapies, such as on line modules, are limited tools and certainly not suitable for a young person with suicidal ideation. They do not provide a substitute for seeing a trained professional in person. The Prime Minister’s own Youth Mental Health Project tool SPARX has the following proviso: "SPARX does not replace therapy, counselling or medication if they are preferred treatment options ".

Psychotherapists recognize that there is a big body of evidence around phone counselling, widely used by helpline organisations, but these are front line, often emergency interventions. They agree these can be valuable as fast responses or supplements to in depth work, but should not replace counselling or psychotherapy.

National's plans to introduce widespread e-therapy will not lessen out appalling youth suicide rates. On the contrary, these plans may amount to no more than therapy on the cheap.


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