“How Can I Help?” –Your Smartphone
Dr. David Gratzer * and his team at Scarborough and Rouge Hospital’s (SRH) Mental Health Department have developed Canada’s first and only community-hospital delivered, internet-assisted cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT).
"We fall short in the delivery of psychiatric care; for example, a recent study showed that only half of Canadians with depression receive treatment. With any other illness, this would be an unacceptable statistic,” says Dr. Gratzer, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry.
“Various factors, including stigma, schedules, geography and the nature of mental illness prevent people from getting help. We have developed an evidence-based, flexible model of care that circumvents these obstacles.”
Dr. Gratzer and his SRH team recently received the Award of Excellence in Mental Health and Quality Improvement from the Canadian College of Health Leaders for their iCBT model. Available through a physician’s referral, iCBT is an adult outpatient program designed to increase access to care. It allows participants to complete weekly modules in a time and space that works for them. Then, participants send the modules back to a dedicated SRH therapist for feedback and guidance. The program also includes videos and interactive content designed to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
“Patients who need CBT usually face long wait times and a lack of access to therapy outside of regular business hours,” says Dr. Gratzer. “Literature shows that success rates for iCBT rival face-to-face therapy, because it is unbound by the schedules and geography of participants. For a busy single mother or shift-worker who is unable to visit us during regular hours, this allows them to access treatment wherever and whenever it is most convenient for them. For people who live in remote areas or are unable to leave their home, this technology is a game-changer.”
In fact, the success of iCBT has inspired the creation of iMindful, a new program developed specifically for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment. “Ideally, when a patient comes to the hospital, they will have access to both internet and in-person therapy, empowering them to create a treatment plan that meets their unique individual needs.”
*Dr. Gratzer is now at CAMH