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Computer-Assisted Cognitive-Behavior Therapy and Mobile Apps for Depression and Anxiety

Abstract

Purpose of Review

We reviewed research on computer-assisted cognitive-behavior therapy (CCBT) and mobile applications with the goals of assessing the effectiveness of these newer methods of delivering or augmenting treatment and making recommendations on the clinical use of computer tools in psychotherapy of depression and anxiety.

Recent Findings

Research on CCBT has found solid evidence for efficacy when the use of a therapeutic computer program is supported by a clinician or other helping professionals. Lower levels of efficacy or ineffectiveness typically have been found when computer programs are used as stand-alone treatments. A large number of mobile apps have been created that claim to be useful for depression and/or anxiety. However, considerable caution is warranted in evaluating mobile apps and recommending them to patients. Research on mobile apps is still in an early stage of development.

Summary

A number of well-established CCBT programs have been studied in multiple randomized, controlled trials and have been found to be effective. Such programs appear to have adequate quality, security, and efficacy to be used in clinical practice. Mobile apps offer easy portability and immediate access to coping strategies and may be useful for augmenting treatment. But clinicians need to select apps with integrity and reliable content for clinical use.

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Correspondence to Jesse H. Wright.

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Conflict of Interest

Jesse H. Wright is an author of the Good Days Ahead (GDA) program used in an investigation cited in this article and has an equity interest in Empower Interactive and Mindstreet, developers and distributors of GDA. He receives no royalties or other payments from sales of this program. His conflict of interest is managed with an agreement with the University of Louisville. He receives book royalties from American Psychiatric Press, Inc., Guilford Press, and Simon and Schuster, and he receives grant support from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Oticon Foundation.

Matthew Mishkind receives payments to serve on the Advisory Board of Meta Pro. His conflict of interest is managed with an agreement with the University of Colorado.

Tracy D. Eells declares no conflicts of interest.

Steven R. Chan receives compensation for teaching from North American Center for Continuing Medical Education, LLC. and Guidewell Innovation.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Wright, J.H., Mishkind, M., Eells, T.D. et al. Computer-Assisted Cognitive-Behavior Therapy and Mobile Apps for Depression and Anxiety. Curr Psychiatry Rep 21, 62 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-019-1031-2

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Keywords

  • Computer-assisted cognitive-behavior therapy
  • Mobile applications
  • Depression
  • Anxiety