Objective: A lack of resources and cultural stigma associated with mental health treatment necessitate the development of innovative and economical individualized treatments. This study evaluated the efficacy of delivering computer-based cognitive behavioral therapy (e-CBT) presented through Microsoft PowerPoint and delivered via email in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) to Iranian patients, as a means of overcoming treatment barriers.
Methods: Participants (N=80) of Iranian descent were recruited through announcements on psychology websites, Iranian organization websites, weblogs, and in flyers. Participants were randomly assigned to either an e-CBT or a control group. The e-CBT group received 12 weekly modules and homework assignments through email, presented using PowerPoint. The control group received no treatment (individuals in the control group were able to pursue another treatment, but would then be excluded from the study although they could continue with the program). All emails were sent by an attending or resident psychiatrist, who also provided feedback on weekly homework via email. The Beck Anxiety Inventory was used to measure levels of anxiety before study onset and changes in levels of anxiety upon completion of the program at 12 weeks, and at 6-month and 1-year follow-up in both groups.
Results: Beck Anxiety Inventory scores were significantly reduced in the group who received PowerPoint e-CBT modules delivered via email, compared with the control group, following 12 weeks of treatment, and the reductions were maintained at both follow-up points.
Conclusions: Delivery of PowerPoint e-CBT modules via email was found to be a viable method for delivering CBT to individuals with GAD and a simple method for overcoming language, cultural, and travel barriers to accessing mental health resources. This simplified approach to the individualization and delivery of treatment modules has the potential to improve access to CBT as a treatment option throughout the world.