Background: Although guided self-help for depression and anxiety disorders has been examined in many studies, it is not clear whether it is equally effective as face-to-face treatments.MethodWe conducted a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials in which the effects of guided self-help on depression and anxiety were compared directly with face-to-face psychotherapies for depression and anxiety disorders. A systematic search in bibliographical databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, EMBASE, Cochrane) resulted in 21 studies with 810 participants.
Results: The overall effect size indicating the difference between guided self-help and face-to-face psychotherapy at post-test was d=-0.02, in favour of guided self-help. At follow-up (up to 1 year) no significant difference was found either. No significant difference was found between the drop-out rates in the two treatments formats.
Conclusions: It seems safe to conclude that guided self-help and face-to-face treatments can have comparable effects. It is time to start thinking about implementation in routine care.