Computer-based Programs Enhance Recovery

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Computer-based Programs Enhance Recovery

The prevalence of managed care and major cost-cutting measures adopted by insurance companies pose tremendous challenges to healthcare professionals trying to provide effective, ongoing treatment for patients suffering from eating disorders and other mental illnesses. Unfortunately, with limited coverage for therapy sessions and outpatient and inpatient treatment, patients do not always receive the level or continuum of care they need to recover from these disorders.

Interactive Programs

For this reason, therapists and other healthcare providers are challenged to find appropriate means of providing continuous support in between sessions, thus hastening recovery. The internet is emerging as one such support.

Interactive Internet programs can offer powerful learning experiences and produce attitude change that in turn can create more success. The interactivity and ability to customize allows the creation of a more personalized program. Using web-based technology, online programs can also be continually updated to provide users with the latest information, new and enhanced products, and ongoing user feedback. Another obvious benefit is flexibility in terms of when and where to use the program given its accessibility and 24-hour availability.

Proven Effectiveness

In a controlled study with a clinical sample conducted by Nanci Pradas, Ph.D. (2001), use of an interactive program was shown to be highly effective in changing the treatment goals of binge eaters, away from weight loss, towards achieving greater control of eating habits. Such a change reinforces what is accomplished in therapy sessions and is associated with superior treatment outcomes.

These findings prompted Richard Bedrosian, Ph.D., to develop online Internet-based programs for people suffering from depression, eating disorders, and related illnesses. Bedrosian, along with a network of mental health professionals, spent nearly eight years in research and development on this project. In addition to maintaining his clinical practice and teaching at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Dr. Bedrosian founded MySelfHelp.com, whose interactive programs are funded and supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

The Stop Binge Eating Program

The Stop Binge Eating program includes information, tools, and exercises that enable subscribers to delay, prevent, and ultimately recover from binge eating by overcoming misconceptions about eating, weight, and weight loss; identifying and managing triggers for binge eating; identifying and changing cognitive distortions; utilizing self-monitoring and behavioral exercises; improving self control; learning a variety of self-soothing techniques; and creating a recovery plan. System-generated charts and results allow subscribers to identify patterns and monitor their progress. This information can be saved and/or shared with a treating healthcare professional. The cost is $75 for a one-year subscription.

Bedrosian does not envision online programs as a replacement for therapy, rather as an adjunct which can be incorporated into a clinician’s treatment regimen and customized accordingly. As research indicates, the efficacy of self-help programs improves with professional guidance. Accordingly, therapists and their patients can focus on chapters and exercises that best correlate with a patient’s stage of change.

Additional information is available at the MySelfHelp.com website.

Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Winter 2003-2004 Volume 2, Number 2
©2003 Gürze Books

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