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Is Online Treatment as Effective as In-Person Treatment?

Psychological Change in Two Relationship Skills Groups

Church, Dawson, PhD*; Clond, Morgan, PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: May 2019 - Volume 207 - Issue 5 - p 315–319
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000975
Original Articles

Psychotherapy has undergone a widespread change recently, with many interventions now available as wireless device apps or online courses. The current study compared the efficacy of an online program with a personal group treatment intervention. The in-person group (n = 37) attended a 6-day workshop called Tapping Deep Intimacy that focused on the development of interpersonal skills. The online group (n = 37) consumed to the same information in the form of a 12-week online course. The content of both courses was drawn from the curriculum for Whole Energy Lifestyle, which trains participants in 12 evidence-based interpersonal and stress-reduction skills designed to reduce emotional triggering and promote health. These include mindfulness, breathwork, meditation (EcoMeditation), heart coherence, Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques, active listening, and qigong. In both groups, depression, anxiety, and relationship satisfaction were assessed pre, post, and at 1-year follow-up. Anxiety reduced in the in-person but not the online group. Significant improvements in depression (p < 0.001) were found in both groups, although sharper symptom declines were found in the in-person group. A 29% improvement in relationship satisfaction was found in both groups (p < 0.003), and both maintained their gains over time. Anxiety and depression symptoms were much higher in the in-person group pretest despite similar demographic characteristics, suggesting differences in the population that uses online courses. These preliminary findings suggest that while online programs may play a role in the development of stress-reduction and interpersonal skills, it cannot be assumed that they mirror the therapeutic efficacy of in-person treatment in every dimension.

*National Institute for Integrative Healthcare, Fulton, California; and

SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York.

Send reprint requests to Dawson Church, PhD, National Institute for Integrative Healthcare, 3340 Fulton RD, #442, Fulton, CA 95439. E-mail:

Preliminary data were presented at the conference of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology, Orlando, FL, June 1, 2018.

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