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Internet therapy speeds chronic fatigue recovery

Dutch FITNET program finds online cognitive therapy more effective helper for teens

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A Dutch experiment that offered kids aged 12-18 the chance to use online cognitive therapy tools to treat chronic fatigue has proved more effective than real world therapy sessions.

The experiment saw researchers devise an online therapy tool that comes close to the kind of treatment delivered in 1:1 cognitive therapy sessions. 135 kids were split into two groups, one of which used the online tool while the other were offered conventional cognitive therapy sessions.

“Cognitive behavioural therapy seems to be a promising treatment, but its availability is restricted,” notes the abstract to a Lancet article that reveals the results. The researchers therefore developed an online approximation of real-world sessions, with impressive results – patients in the group using the online tool reported less fatigue, were more likely to record full attendance at school and also more likely to experience “normal functioning” at the end of the six month trial.

Dr Rosanne Coutts, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at Australia’s Southern Cross University expressed guarded optimism about the results.

“These results are very encouraging and again demonstrate the importance of the psychological aspects within treatment processes,” she said. “By using the internet, which adolescents are very familiar with, they have met them ‘where they live’. The patients also seemed fairly involved in what they did, it was quite self-driven, putting patients back in charge of their own recovery.”

Dr Coutts added that “Further detail about the actual physical activity conducted in both groups would be of interest and would assist with understanding any physiological changes that had also occurred. The study also relied on, self-report, however even with consideration for some self-reporting bias the school attendance is a clear indicator of levels of recovery. Previous studies report a good prognosis for adolescents and this study again supports this.”

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