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Web therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome

1st March 2012

Teenagers with chronic fatigue syndrome could be better helped with their condition through web-based treatments, according to new research.

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A study in The Lancet found that 63% of young people who were given psychotherapy online reported making a recovery.

And now UK experts say the work, which has been carried out by Dutch researchers, could be an effective way to help teenagers.

The team from the University Medical Centre in Utrecht looked at the potential of Fitnet, a web-based psychotherapy programme which tries to replicate face-to-face cognitive behavioural therapy online. A skilled therapist was on hand to provide support via email if required.

Some 135 adolescents with chronic fatigue were involved with half given standard treatment of individual or group psychotherapy and exercise therapy, with the other half enrolled into Fitnet.

After six months, 85% of the Fitnet group said that they had no severe fatigue, compared with 27% in the standard treatment group.

Psychologists Professor Peter White from Barts and the London School of Medicine, and Professor Trudie Chalder from King’s College London praised the research.

They said: “They have added to an increasing evidence base which shows that therapist-aided, internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective treatment for many similar disorders.”

The causes behind chronic fatigue are not well understood, though some experts believe that cognitive behavioural therapy can help.

But they also noted that the response to conventional psychotherapy seemed unusually poor, and that there was no guarantee that similar results would be achieved among adult patients.

 

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