The Advantages and Disadvantages of Online and Blended Therapy: Survey Study Amongst Licensed Psychotherapists in Austria.

Research paper by Raphael R Schuster, Raffaela R Pokorny, Thomas T Berger, Naira N Topooco, Anton-Rupert AR Laireiter

Indexed on: 20 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: Journal of medical Internet research


Web-based and blended (face-to-face plus Web-based) interventions for mental health disorders are gaining significance. However, many licensed psychotherapists still have guarded attitudes toward computer-assisted therapy, hindering dissemination efforts. The objective of this study was to provide a therapist-oriented evaluation of Web-based and blended therapies and identify commonalities and differences in attitudes toward both formats. Furthermore, it aimed to test the impact of an information clip on expressed attitudes. In total, 95 Austrian psychotherapists were contacted and surveyed via their listed occupational email address. An 8-minute information video was shown to half of the therapists before 19 advantages and 13 disadvantages had to be rated on a 6-point Likert scale. The sample resembled all assessed properties of Austrian psychotherapists (age, theoretical orientation, and region). Therapists did not hold a uniform overall preference. Instead, perceived advantages of both interventions were rated as neutral (t=1.89, P=.06; d=0.11), whereas Web-based interventions were associated with more disadvantages and risks (t=9.86, P<.001; d=0.81). The information clip did not excerpt any detectable effect on therapists' attitudes (r=-.109, P=.30). The application of modern technologies in the own therapeutic practice and cognitive behavioral orientation were positively related to the given ratings. This study is the first to directly compare therapists' attitudes toward Web-based and blended therapies. Positive attitudes play a pivotal role in the dissemination of new technologies, but unexperienced therapists seem to lack knowledge on how to benefit from technology-aided treatments. To speed up implementation, these aspects need to be addressed in the development of new interventions. Furthermore, the preference of blended treatments over Web-based interventions seems to relate to avoidance of risks. Although this study is likely to represent therapists' attitudes in countries with less advanced electronic health services, therapists' attitudes in more advanced countries might present differently. ©Raphael Schuster, Raffaela Pokorny, Thomas Berger, Naira Topooco, Anton-Rupert Laireiter. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 18.12.2018.