Online Therapy Helps Teens With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

New research shows that web-based therapy is quite beneficial to teens dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome.

The report, published in The Lancet journal showed that teens receiving web-based (online) psychotherapy made significant improvements in dealing with the diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. Dutch researchers used a program known as Fitnet with a group of 135 teens suffering from chronic fatigue.

"After six months, 85 percent of the Fitnet group said they had no severe fatigue, compared with 27 percent in the standard treatment group. Three-quarters of the Fitnet adolescents were attending school fully, compared with just 16 percent of those receiving standard treatment," the report states.

Standard treatment for chronic fatigue centers on cognitive behavioral therapy, which "teaches people to change how they think about and respond to situations. The therapy is effective in reducing the fatigue, joint pain, and poor memory and concentration of chronic fatigue syndrome when delivered in person," NPR noted.

Why, then was the Internet option so successful? According to Sanne Nijhof, lead researcher of the study, part of the effect was due to the ease of access. Teens were able to work at their own pace and not have to leave the comfort of their own homes.

While the study is still relatively new, it does offer promise and hope for those dealing with other illnesses. "They have added to an increasing evidence base which shows that therapist-aided, internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy is an effect treatment for many similar disorders," stated professor and psychologist Peter White.

More and more psychologists are incorporating online therapy into their practices. Simply typing in the words "online therapy" will bring up a plethora of sites both supporting the use of online therapy and then providing the name of groups that use web-based therapy. It's an interesting situation, given how society is tending to be more and more digital instead of physical.

Teens may be the best candidates for online therapy, as it allows them to use the technology they are comfortable with. Web-based therapy also provides a new level of privacy so valued by teens; instead of being seen in a psychologist's office, which may lead to discomfort and fear of being seen by peers, they are allowed to remain safe and comfortable at home.