Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Computer-Supported Psychotherapy Should Pay Attention to E-Learning

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Computer-Supported Psychotherapy Should Pay Attention to E-Learning

Article excerpt


Computer supported psychotherapy (CSP) is an innovative development of psychotherapy aiming to match the needs of the market and the new attitudes of help seekers in our digital era. We claim that theories and data from e-learning, in particular those from instructional design and multimedia learning can be successfully transferred to improve CSP. E-learning may become an illuminating metaphor for effective CSP. We argue for a re-conceptualization of psychotherapy as a series of learning experiences taking place in the mind of the patient, with the contribution of various resources, the psychotherapist being only one of them.

KEYWORDS: computer supported psychotherapy, e-learning, multimedia learning, instructional design.


The psychotherapy of emotional disorders is presently forced to reconsider its basic principles and forms of delivery. At least two high-pressure factors may be mentioned in this context. First of all, the incidence of mental disorders has dramatically increased in the last decades. The present data show, for example, that approximately 29% of the adult population has had an anxiety disorder over his/her lifetime, while in the case of adolescents the threshold has exceeded 10% (European Commission, 2005; Cunningham, Rapee, & Lyneham, 2006). On the other hand, the limited number of certified therapists, as well as the traditional format of therapy (face-to-face encounters, approximately once a week), have created a huge imbalance between the need to psychotherapeutical services and the available offer. In Great Britain or USA, for instance, 84% of the individuals with anxiety disorders or depression remain untreated, while the waiting lists are for 1-2 years (Marks, 2004). Secondly, because of the impact of information technology, the attitudes of those who seek information and/or help for their mental health problems has substantially changed. Recent surveys show that internet search for self help resources has become a typical behavior for approximately 50% of internet users; moreover, 91% of the respondents have stated that the internet is their first option when they search for information and help regarding their health problems (Risk & Petusen, 2002; Bessell, Anderson, Sansom, & Hiller, 2003). Information regarding mental health is the most demanded, and 42% of these searches refer to anxiety problems, depression, and bipolar neurosis (Proudfoot, 2004). The generation of digital natives (i.e., people who grew up interacting daily with digital technology) is just reaching the age of maturity, meaning that in the future, the use of digital, multimedia devices for solving mental health problems will exponentially increase.

In sum, the actual form of psychotherapy is outdated both by the demands of the market, as well as by the new expectancies and attitudes induced by the information and communication technology (ICT).

Computer-supported psychotherapy is a recent tentative to innovate the psychotherapeutic process and match both the existent demands of the market and the new attitudes of those who seek help in the digital era. Computer-supported psychotherapy (CSP) consists of a combination of ICT and human capabilities aiming to alleviate emotional disorders and provide opportunities for personal growth. It is ranging on a continuum, from a completely computerised therapy (e.g., CD-Rom or client-administered psychological software) to the use of psychotherapeutic software and platforms solely as an extension for the work of the psychotherapist. In one form or another CSP has come closer to e-learning or blended learning, and could benefit from conceptual and methodological transfer originating in these more mature disciplines.

There are at least two domains where the theories and data already accumulated in e-learning may enrich e-mental health and CSP in particular: instructional design and the use of multimedia.


Fundamentally, psychotherapy is a design: an artifact aiming to solve particular mental health problems, relying on evidence-based general principles. …

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