A new study published in the recent issue Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics reveals new insights into the role of self-help in inpatient psychotherapy. The inpatient psychotherapy in combination with self-help program can improve the depressive symptoms or prevent relapse.

Depression is one of the most frequent and costly mental disorders. While there is increasing evidence for the efficacy of online self-help to improve depression or prevent relapse, there is little evidence in blended care settings, especially combined with inpatient face-to-face psychotherapy.

In this study, researchers evaluated whether an evidence-based online self-help program improves the efficacy of inpatient psychotherapy. A total of 229 depressed patients were randomly allocated either to an online self-help program (intervention group; Deprexis) or an active control group (weekly online information on depression) in addition to inpatient psychodynamic psychotherapy.

Both groups had access to their respective experimental intervention for 12 weeks, regardless of inpatient treatment duration. Reduction of depressive symptoms, as measured with the Beck Depression Inventory-II, was the primary outcome at the end of the intervention.

Results showed that depressive symptoms were statistically significantly lower in the intervention group compared to the active control group at the end of treatment with a moderate between-group effect size of d = 0.44. The same applied to anxiety (d = 0.33), quality of life (d = 0.34), and self-esteem (d = 0.38) at discharge from inpatient treatment.

At the beginning of the trial, there were no statistically significant differences found regarding dysfunctional attitudes (d = 0.14) and workability (d = 0.08) between the intervention group and active control group, the authors noted.

The current study provides the first evidence for blended treatment combining online self-help with inpatient psychotherapy. The study opens new and promising avenues for increasing the efficacy of inpatient psychotherapy. Future studies should determine how the integration of online self-help into the therapeutic process can be developed further.