Online Treatment for Depression and Anxiety - Dr Jill Newby

What is this research about?
Depression and anxiety disorders are the two most common mental disorders in the community, and affect up to one in five people during their lifetime. Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand, which is not surprising given they share similar symptoms, causes, and genetic vulnerabilities.

Although effective treatments exist for these problems, they are often difficult and expensive to access in the community, especially for people living in rural and remote areas of Australia. Dr Newby’s research explores how online treatment programs and smartphone apps can be used to help people with depression and anxiety recover.

Online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Online CBT provides a low-cost accessible way to treat anxiety and depression. People who take part in these programs can learn practical skills to manage their symptoms in the convenience and privacy of their own homes. Dr Newby’s research has explored the value and impact of online CBT for a variety of anxiety and depressive disorders, including mixed anxiety and depression. Her research has investigated how and why these interventions work, and how they compare to alternative treatment options. She is currently conducting research to explore whether online CBT programs can be used to treat anxiety and depression in the context of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, osteoarthritis and cancer.

Online mindfulness meditation training for the treatment and prevention of depression and anxiety
Mindfulness meditation has been shown have a variety of health benefits including lowered stress and anxiety, and mindfulness tools are now widely available to the general public. However, little is know about how safe and effective online mindfulness programs are for the treatment and prevention of depression and anxiety. Dr Newby is currently conducting a range of projects to explore these questions.

Can pain be managed from a distance? Exploring the benefits of Reboot Online – an online pain management program for people with chronic pain
In collaboration with the department of Pain Medicine from St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, Dr Newby and her team has developed an online version of their multidisciplinary pain management program (the Reboot Program). Reboot Online is a completely multidisciplinary pain management program for people with chronic pain, written by physiotherapists, psychologists, nurses, occupational therapies and pain medicine specialists. The team is currently trialling this new program with people with chronic pain.

Computerised cognitive bias training
Depression and anxiety are often associated with biases in thinking styles, including the tendency to think the worst when negative events happen, and paying attention to threat and negative things in the environment. In psychological therapy, we often use strategies such as thought challenging to try and help people change these automatic thinking biases. Cognitive bias training adopts a different approach to helping people – it is like a computerised form of brain training, where people learn how to pay attention to positive things in the environment, or learn to think in more neutral or positive ways. Dr Newby’s research is exploring how useful this training is for people with insomnia and anxiety, as well as people with health anxiety.

Other researchers involved:

Michael Murphy: Dr Michael Murphy’s doctoral research has involved developing and evaluating the iCanADAPT Program, a new cancer-specific online treatment program for anxiety and depression. This program was developed in collaboration with researchers at Sydney University, the PsychoOncology Cooperative Research Group, and St Vincent’s Hospital.

Natalie Kladnistki: Natalie’s doctoral research seeks to understand how mindfulness can be used to help people with depression and anxiety recover. Her research is exploring whether mindfulness can be used in combination with cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to enhance the efficacy of existing online programs. She also is working on a project evaluating the safety and efficacy of online mindfulness skills training as a stand-alone intervention for these conditions.

Eileen Stech: Eileen’s doctoral work seeks to develop and test new ways of delivering online treatment for panic disorder. Her aim is to improve outcomes for people with panic disorder, by delivering more effective, efficient and targeted treatment programs.

Publications relating to this research:

Andrews, G., J.M. Newby, and A.D. Williams, Internet-delivered cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety disorders is here to stay. Curr Psychiatry Rep, 2015. 17(1): p. 533.

Newby, J.M., L. Mewton, and G. Andrews, Transdiagnostic versus disorder-specific internet cognitive behaviour therapy for depression and anxiety in primary care. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 2017. 46: p. 23-34.

Newby, J.M., et al., Transdiagnostic computerised cognitive behavioural therapy for depression and anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2016. 199: p. 30-41.

Newby, J.M., et al., Internet cognitive behavioural therapy for mixed anxiety and depression: a randomized controlled trial and evidence of effectiveness in primary care. Psychological Medicine, 2013: p. 1-14.

Lab:

For further information on this research, contact Dr Jill Newby.