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Researchers to develop a new online approach to cognitive behavioural therapy for depression

23 November 2020

A major new clinical trial led by researchers at the University of Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care and Centre for Academic Mental Health will develop and evaluate a new way of delivering Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) for patients with depression.

The National Institute for Health Research funded INTERACT trial will test an approach that integrates the use of online CBT materials with therapist-led CBT for depression delivered online. It will blend high intensity therapy with innovative use of technology.

The study will start recruiting patients in the next few weeks, after a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. The aim is to recruit over 400 participants over the next two years. Participants will be patients with depression recruited through GP practices in three locations: Bristol, London and York.

GPs will be able to refer patients and potential participants will be identified during consultations or from patient records. Participants will be randomised to either usual care or usual care plus the INTERACT CBT intervention.

Participants receiving the intervention will be offered nine sessions of therapy. The first will be delivered face-to-face or by video call, and subsequent sessions will be delivered using instant messaging. Participants will also be able to access the study website and CBT materials at any time, as working outside the therapeutic session is an important ingredient in the effectiveness of CBT.

David Kessler, Professor of Primary Care at the University of Bristol who is a co-lead for the study, said: “Until recently online therapy has been thought of as a potentially useful alternative to face-to-face therapy but has been a minority interest. The pandemic has changed that, perhaps for good, and remotely delivered therapy is likely to be of central importance from now on.

“We need to offer a remotely delivered psychological therapy that is as effective, engaging and personalised as face-to-face treatment. INTERACT is not an automated online programme, but genuinely integrates CBT materials and real-time therapist contact, preserving the patient-therapist relationship.”

Deborah Tallon, INTERACT Research Programme Manager at the Centre for Academic Primary Care, said: “Remotely delivered patient care has taken root. We need as much high-quality evidence about its effectiveness as possible and INTERACT aims to provide that for psychological therapy.

“We are aiming to recruit up to 75 GP practices. So far, we have 12, with a number of expressions of interest, but would welcome more.”

For more information about INTERACT (Integrated therapist and online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for depression in primary care) and how to take part, visit the study website.

The INTERACT programme is led by the University of Bristol and is a collaboration with the Universities of Glasgow, York, Hull York Medical School, University College Dublin, and University College London.

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