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Digital CBT reduced distress in patients with long-term physical health conditions

Participants who received COMPASS showed a clinically significant improvement after 12 weeks.

Researchers from King’s College London’s (KCL) Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) have revealed that digital cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) reduced psychological distress in patients living with long-term physical health conditions.

The study, published in Psychological Medicine, was part-funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research’s Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre.

Long-term physical health conditions, including diabetes, asthma and chronic fatigue, are conditions that cannot be cured but can be managed with medication or other treatment.

Among the estimated 15.4 million people in England living with one or more of these health conditions, 30% also have a co-occurring mental health condition.

The study involved 194 patients living with long-term conditions, recruited via charities including Crohns & Colitis UK, Care UK, the MS Society, and the Psoriasis Association.

Half of the patients received the COMPASS programme and the other half did not.

Developed with the support of the Mind and Body Programme at King’s Health Partners, COMPASS works to integrate mental and physical health needs by specifically addressing the challenges of living with a long-term health condition.

The programme uses interactive pathways tailored to the individual’s needs to help patients manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as building strategies to help with associated stressors, including relapses or unpleasant treatments.

Results from the study revealed that 89% of participants who received COMPASS showed a clinically significant improvement in distress after 12 weeks, in comparison to 45% of those who did not receive COMPASS.

In addition, COMPASS also contributed to the improved ability of participants when undertaking daily activities, a reduction in illness-specific distress and a better quality of life.

Dr Federica Picariello, post-doctoral health psychology research associate at KCL’s IoPPN, commented: “Our study shows that COMPASS offers an effective and potentially scalable intervention for people whose long-term physical health condition is, in fact, the key driver for their anxiety and/or depression.”