Online therapy could be an effective new tool for treating teens with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), according to findings published today in the Lancet.
In the study (subscription required), Dutch researchers assigned 135 teens, who had CFS symptoms for nearly two years, to receive Internet-based behavioral therapy, individual and group behavioral therapy or exercise-based therapy. The web-based treatment, which was developed by the research team, included a 21-module educational component and regular e-mail interactions between patients and specially-trained therapists. Treatment progression was monitored by regular e-mail contacts between therapists, patients, and their parents. Online treatment programs lasted an average of 26 weeks.
Shots reports that study results showed:
After 6 months, 85 percent of the teenagers using Internet-delivered therapy group said they no longer had severe fatigue, compared to 27 percent getting therapy in person. Three-quarters of the Internet group had returned to school, compared to 16 percent of the in-person therapy group.
Researchers speculated that the Internet-based behavioral therapy may have been more effective because it reduced barriers to delivering one-on-one care, allowed patients to work on assignments at their own pace and made therapists more accessible. While CFS is somewhat rare among teens, researchers say the same method could be used in treating children suffering from fatigue during cancer treatment or some forms of headaches.