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The Generalizability of Randomized Controlled Trials of Self-Guided Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depressive Symptoms: Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis.

The Generalizability of Randomized Controlled Trials of Self-Guided Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depressive Symptoms: Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis.

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The Generalizability of Randomized Controlled Trials of Self-Guided Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depressive Symptoms: Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis.

J Med Internet Res. 2018 Nov 09;20(11):e10113

Authors: Lorenzo-Luaces L, Johns E, Keefe JR

Abstract
BACKGROUND: Self-guided internet-based cognitive behavioral therapies (iCBTs) for depressive symptoms may substantially increase accessibility to mental health treatment. Despite this, questions remain as to the generalizability of the research on self-guided iCBT.
OBJECTIVE: We sought to describe the clinical entry criteria used in studies of self-guided iCBT, explore the criteria's effects on study outcomes, and compare the frequency of use of these criteria with their use in studies of face-to-face psychotherapy and antidepressant medications. We hypothesized that self-guided iCBT studies would use more stringent criteria that would bias the sample toward those with a less complex clinical profile, thus inflating treatment outcomes.
METHODS: We updated a recently published meta-analysis by conducting a systematic literature search in PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and EMBASE. We conducted a meta-regression analysis to test the effect of the different commonly used psychiatric entry criteria on the treatment-control differences. We also compared the frequency with which exclusion criteria were used in the self-guided iCBT studies versus studies of face-to-face psychotherapy and antidepressants from a recently published review.
RESULTS: Our search yielded 5 additional studies, which we added to the 16 studies identified by Karyotaki and colleagues in 2017. Few self-guided iCBT studies excluded patients with severe depressive symptoms (6/21, 29%), but self-guided iCBT studies were more likely than antidepressant (14/170, 8.2%) studies to use this criterion. However, self-guided iCBT studies did not use this criterion more frequently than face-to-face psychotherapy studies (6/16, 38%). Beyond this, we found no evidence that self-guided iCBTs used more stringent entry criteria. Strong evidence suggested that they were actually less likely to use most entry criteria, especially exclusions on the basis of substance use or personality pathology. None of the entry criteria used had an effect on outcomes.
CONCLUSIONS: A conservative interpretation of our findings is that the patient population sampled in the literature on self-guided iCBT is relatively comparable with that of studies of antidepressants or face-to-face psychotherapy. Alternatively, studies of unguided cognitive behavioral therapy may sample from a more heterogeneous and representative patient population. Until evidence emerges to suggest otherwise, the patient population sampled in self-guided iCBT studies cannot be considered as less complex than the patient population from face-to-face psychotherapy or antidepressant studies.

PMID: 30413400 [PubMed - in process]

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