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Vol. 76, No. 4, 2007
Issue release date: June 2007
Psychother Psychosom 2007;76:219–225

The Exploration of the Effectiveness of Group Therapy through an Internet Chat as Aftercare: A Controlled Naturalistic Study

Golkaramnay V. · Bauer S. · Haug S. · Wolf M. · Kordy H.
aAlpenblick Psychosomatic Hospital, Isny, and bCenter for Psychotherapy Research, University Hospital, Heidelberg, Germany

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Background: Modern communication technologies offer novel opportunities for the provision of stepped care for patients with mental disorders. This study investigated the effectiveness of group therapy delivered through an Internet chat following inpatient treatment. The main goal of the program was to reduce the risk of losing the therapeutic benefits achieved during the preceding inpatient treatment. Methods: 114 patients participated in one of two parallel groups of 8–10 patients that met with a group therapist in an Internet chat room. The groups met weekly for 12–15 weeks for 90 min. Controls were 114 patients who did not participate in the chat groups and were matched by application of propensity score methods. The main criterion was derived from comprehensive assessments of changes in health status comprising the psychological and physical condition of the patients. Assessments were conducted at admission, discharge and 12 months after discharge. Results: 12 months after discharge, chat participants showed a substantially lower risk (24.7%) for negative outcome than controls (38.5%). Furthermore, the low dropout rate and the high session attendance supported the expectation that this novel offer met patients’ needs, and thus, opens a new avenue for the optimization of care for patients with mental disorders.

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