An Internet-based Self-help Programme with Telephone Support for the Treatment of Social Phobia

Social phobia is one of the most prevalent anxiety disorders and is characterised by fear and anxiety in social interaction and performance situations. Utilising the Internet and self-help for the treatment of social phobia is a new area of research. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of an Internet-based self-help pro-gramme in combination with telephone support and e-mail contact for the treatment of social phobia. Participants were recruited via advertisements in newspapers and a search engine on the Internet. A DSM-IV diagnosis of social phobia was established by the Social Phobia Screening Questionnaire and a short diagnostic interview admin-istered via telephone. A total of 60 participants were then randomised into treatment and control groups (n=30/each). The 9 week long treatment programme was based on previously described and empirically tested Cognitive Behavioural techniques. Par-ticipants were given access to new levels (modules) of the electronic programme on the Internet upon completion of weekly homework assignments which they sent to their Internet therapists. The therapists also made weekly supportive telephone calls to subjects which were approximately 10 minutes long.

The measures of one treatment group participant and two waiting-list controls were not included in the final analysis. Conservative Intention-to-Treat statistical methods were applied to the final data. Results suggested that the treated group improved sig-nificantly more than waiting-list controls on measures of social anxiety, depression, and general anxiety. Percentage of clinically significantly improved subjects, on at least two of four social anxiety scales at post-treatment, was 65.6% in the treated group and 10.7% in controls. The conclusion drawn from these results is that a self-help programme administered via the Internet in combination with weekly supportive telephone calls and Internet contact with therapists is an effective treatment method for people suffering from social phobia.