Internet-Based Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Loneliness: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

Behav Ther. 2020 Jan;51(1):54-68. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2019.05.001. Epub 2019 May 11.


Loneliness has been described as a common source of discomfort based on a subjective discrepancy between the actual and desired social situation. For some people this feeling may become a sustained state that is associated with a wide range of psychiatric and psychosocial problems. While there are few existing treatment protocols, interventions based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have shown positive effects. The current study investigated the efficacy of an 8-week internet-based treatment containing CBT components aimed at reducing feelings of loneliness. Seventy-three participants were recruited from the general public and randomly allocated to treatment or a wait-list control condition. Participants were assessed with standardized self-report measures of loneliness, depression, social anxiety, worry, and quality of life at pretreatment and posttreatment. Robust linear regression analysis of all randomized participants showed significant treatment effects on the primary outcome measure of loneliness (between group Cohen's d = 0.77), and on secondary outcomes measuring quality of life and social anxiety relative to control at postassessment. The results suggest the potential utility of internet-based CBT in alleviating loneliness but more research on the long-term effects and the mechanisms underlying the effects is needed.

Keywords: CBT; Internet-based cognitive behavior therapy; digital intervention; guided self-help; loneliness.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / trends*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Internet / trends*
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Report*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult