Although there are pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatments for mental health problems, barriers to access to evidence-based treatments are still a major problem. Studies indicate that approximately 75% of children and young people experiencing a mental health problem do not receive the help they need.
Untreated mental health problems are associated with reduced quality of life and can interfere with children’s functioning at school, at home, and in the community. Without access to scientifically validated treatments, children with mental health problems are exposed to an increased risk of school failure, dependence on social services, even suicide with negative long-term consequences.
Cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (CBT) is the standard psychological intervention for the treatment of mental health problems in children and adolescents. CBT is the most researched form of psychotherapy, and mechanisms of change in CBT have been the most studied and provide data supporting the effectiveness of interventions.
The main advantages of combining psychotherapy and technology include ease of access to therapy, application of the protocol in a controlled manner, portability, confidentiality, reproducibility, and safety. Technology has the potential to improve access to evidence-based treatment and its effectiveness.
- by being accessible in remote or disadvantaged areas;
- by using in combination with face-to-face CBT to increase motivation and adherence to therapy;
- by offering in a standardized way with different levels of therapist involvement access to the best protocols;
- by collecting more ecological data about customers and by being able to provide feedback in real life;
- providing the ability to easily add parenting components to therapy. Moreover, over the last 18 months, during the pandemic, technology has made it possible for most children, adolescents and their families to access mental health treatment.
The above technological developments are highly appreciated by children and teenagers, as many of them have access to tablets and smartphones before they learn to walk and talk. In addition, technology-mediated therapies offer a way to avoid the time-consuming transportation and logistical challenges that are often generated by face-to-face techniques. Studies have estimated savings of up to $540-$630 per client compared to standard CBT.
Although technology-enhanced CBT is increasingly available, empirical research on its efficacy and effectiveness is increasing day by day, showing encouraging results. Future research must inform us particularly regarding the mechanisms of change in technology-mediated psychotherapy. More specifically, studies need to address questions about the factors responsible for change in technology-enhanced CBT and how different types of digital media influence outcomes.
Also, several challenges such as non-responses or premature dropouts need to be addressed. Questions also remain regarding the contribution of parents to treatment outcomes. These data may contribute to more effective approaches to mental health treatment for children and adolescents.
„Digital Enhanced Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies for Children, Adolescents and Parents” aims to study:
- The efficiency of cognitive-behavioral interventions delivered through technology in clinical disorders (anxiety, depression, ADHD) of children, adolescents and within parenting programs.
- The mechanisms involved in the emergence and maintenance of mental health disorders or social relationship problems that children and young people have
- What parents can do to promote children’s mental health
- Mental health in schools