Background: Adjunctive psychosocial interventions are efficacious in bipolar disorder, but their incorporation into routine management plans are often confounded by cost and access constraints. We report here a comparative evaluation of two online programs hosted on a single website (www.moodswings.net.au). A basic version, called MoodSwings (MS), contains psychoeducation material and asynchronous discussion boards; and a more interactive program, MoodSwings Plus (MS-Plus), combined the basic psychoeducation material and discussion boards with elements of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. These programs were evaluated in a head-to-head study design.
Method: Participants with Bipolar I or II disorder (n=156) were randomized to receive either MoodSwings or MoodSwings-Plus. Outcomes included mood symptoms, the occurrence of relapse, functionality, Locus of Control, social support, quality of life and medication adherence.
Results: Participants in both groups showed baseline to endpoint reductions in mood symptoms and improvements in functionality, quality of life and medication adherence. The MoodSwings-Plus group showed a greater number of within-group changes on symptoms and functioning in depression and mania, quality of life and social support, across both poles of the illness. MoodSwings-Plus was superior to MoodSwings in improvement on symptoms of mania scores at 12 months (p=0.02) but not on the incidence of recurrence.
Limitations: The study did not have an attention control group and therefore could not demonstrate efficacy of the two active arms. There was notable (81%) attrition by 12 months from baseline.
Conclusion: This study suggests that both CBT and psychoeducation delivered online may have utility in the management of bipolar disorder. They are feasible, readily accepted, and associated with improvement.
Keywords: Bipolar disorder; CBT; Internet; Online; Psychoeducation; Psychological.
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