Internet Therapy for Postpartum Depression is Not Ideal

A recent study published in the journal Psychological Medicine, concluded, “Postpartum depression can be treated effectively using online therapy.”

Before I get into my reservations about this method of treating the disorder, I’ll tell you more about the research, which was conducted at the University of Exeter in England.

The researchers recruited 249 mothers for the 12-session, modular, Internet behavioral treatment that was supported by telephone calls with a mental health worker.

Of that number, “83 met the criteria for major depressive disorder.” This group was then randomly split into two with one receiving treatment as usual (my note: we don’t know what usual means in this case), and the other group undertook Internet-based treatment. Modules that the Internet group participated in included: “being a good enough mum, changing roles and relationships, sleep, and communication.”

At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that those in the online group “reported better results for depression, work, and social impairment… and better results for depression six months after treatment.”

One of the conclusions in the study that I totally agree with is the difficulty many new mothers have in “accessing traditional clinic-based therapy because transportation, childcare, variable feeding and nap times all conspire to make it hard to keep appointments.” This barrier is something I frequently encounter in my practice, and I work hand-in-hand with my patients to help them overcome these issues.

This personalized attention that happens in a face-to-face meeting, where each patient’s uniqueness becomes part of the therapeutic plan, is what I believe is missing from Internet therapy. To me, psychotherapy is an art where patient and therapist work collaboratively to see what is helpful, and what is not.

With each patient, after a complete diagnostic interview in which we discuss their symptoms and mental health history, I set up an individualized treatment plan. Each patient is unique, and their treatment plan is suited to their unique individual needs. The actual face-to-face appointments help me, perhaps intuitively, experience the patient’s energy, view body language, and perceive other crucial signs absent from an online experience.

Having said that, if it is totally impossible for a new mom to receive individualized therapy, I will concede that working with a professional online is certainly better than no help at all. But, based on my years of practice, I still recommend the awesome experience of actual person-to-person psychotherapy.


~ by ppdsus on November 26, 2013.

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