The more it is needed, the less it is wanted: attitudes toward face-to-face intervention among depressed patients undergoing online treatment

Depress Anxiety. 2013 Feb;30(2):157-67. doi: 10.1002/da.21988. Epub 2012 Aug 28.


Many individuals suffering from depression do not actively seek treatment. Self-help strategies represent low-threshold treatment options that are particularly relevant for milder cases. The present study addressed two important issues: (1) we examined depressed individuals' motives and attitudes that may represent barriers to face-to-face treatment; (2) we examined if the participation in an online treatment program facilitates or compromises their willingness to undergo face-to-face treatment. We recruited 210 participants with depression for a trial on the efficacy of an online treatment program for depression. Participants were randomly allocated either to a self-help treatment (Deprexis) or to a wait-list control group. All participants filled out a newly developed 42-item questionnaire called Psychotherapy Expectations, Concerns, and Hopes Inventory (PECHI). The scale measures attitudes toward face-to-face treatment and was administered at baseline and 8 weeks later. Principal component analysis of the PECHI revealed five dimensions: hope for symptomatic improvement, fear of poor alliance with the therapist, skill acquisition, skepticism and resentment of psychotherapy, and self-stigma. Attitudes toward treatment were stable over time and neither modulated by group status nor by self-reported or objective symptom decline. Correlation analyses revealed that current levels of depression and well-being were potent predictors of attitudes toward treatment, suggesting that when the patient feels more depressed, doubts about the effectiveness of therapy emerge more strongly. To conclude, results suggest that Deprexis neither promotes nor reduces negative attitudes toward psychotherapy, nor does it increase barriers to enter face-to-face treatments. An alarming paradox emerged: when a depressed person is in greatest need of help, motivation to seek face-to-face treatment is lowest.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telemedicine*