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eMH Treatment Programs - which one shall I choose?

15 August 2017 - Dr Jan Orman

Decisions, Decisions

Trying to decide what online mental health treatment programs to use can be difficult. There seem to be so many of them! Which one will be easiest to use? What style is best? Should I choose something specific for the problem or something more general?

As humans we learn that putting things into categories helps us remember. Animals and insects go into species and phyla. People go into races, nationalities and families. Diseases go into boxes according to what causes them or what symptoms they cause. Medications fit into groups according to what they do and how they do it.

Antidepressants all aim to do the same thing – make depression (and anxiety) better by adjusting the concentrations of chemicals (neurotransmitters) in the brain. Subsets of antidepressants act on different chemicals - serotonin in the case of the SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors), noradrenaline and serotonin in the case of the SNRIs (serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors) and various mixes of serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine in the case of the other subsets of drugs (tricyclics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors etc). Within each group of drugs there is variation between the members in terms of efficacy and side effects and, of course, patient acceptability. We have less difficulty remembering the details of the drugs if we have them sorted into categories in our minds.

Maybe it will help to put those e-mental health resources into these kinds of categories too.

Categorising e-Mental Health Resources

The most obvious division is according to broad type of resource:

  • portals for information about services
  • websites for information and support
  • apps to help with symptom management
  • treatment programs.

Treatment programs, whilst having a lot in common, have a number of differences as well.

Australian evidence-based programs

Let’s look at the Australian evidence-based programs. They have in common that they are:

  • CBT based (with a little ACT, positive psychology and mindfulness thrown in for good measure)
  • interactive, and use examples of “people like you” to help illustrate how to do the interactive exercises that in the end are aimed at teaching the CBT skills.

They are also:

  • mostly free to use
  • mostly open access (that is you don’t need a referral to use them)
  • mostly self-help
  • mostly linear in structure
  • mostly transdiagnostic.

It’s those “mostly”s that cause us trouble!

Download a quick reference table

We’ve developed a table that might help. Click here to access the table. It’s not everything you need to know but it might help you get your thoughts together about what’s available

Dr Jan Orman
Dr Jan Orman

Jan is Sydney GP, private psychological medicine practitioner in Sydney’s inner west and a GP educator for Black Dog Institute.

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