On-line Cognitive Therapy Program

R. Skip Johnson

According to our surveys, seventy-five percent (75%) of our members taking the Standord test scored in the depressed range.

Cognitive behavioral treatment therapy was developed by Aaron Beck in the 1970s and through the work of David Burns, MD, has grown to be the most prescribed treament for depression. Cognitive therapy programs train people to replace maladaptive cognitive styles with helpful thinking patterns and increase behavioral coping skills. CBT is a very useful coping tool for family and partners (current and former) of individuals wiith borderline personalty disorder.

It has been shown that computerized-CBT is an effective treatment for mild and moderate depression (Jamison & Scogin, 1995; Selmi, Klein & Greist et al., 1990; Osgood-Hynes, Greist & Marks et al., 1998) Its efficacy in treating depressive disorders in adults and adolescents is well established (Depression Guideline Panel, 1993; NHMRC, 1997).




MoodGym was developed by the Australian National University.

This is a sophisticated program that will take 1-2 weeks (multiple sessions on-line with off-line exercises) to complete. Learn more about the program, read one user's opinions, and sign up.

"Cognitive therapy... is based on an underlying theoretical rationale that an individual’s affect and behaviour are largely determined by the way in which he structures the world".(Beck, A, Rush, JA, Shaw, BF, Emery, G 1979 Cognitive Therapy of Depression)

Cognitive therapy programs train people to replace maladaptive cognitive styles with helpful thinking patterns and increase behavioral coping skills.

What Is MoodGym?

MoodGYM is an interactive web program designed to prevent and decrease depressive symptoms. It was designed for young people but is helpful for people of all ages.

MoodGYM consists of five modules, an interactive game, anxiety and depression assessments, downloadable relaxation audio file, a workbook and feedback assessment. This is a sophisticated program that will take one to two weeks to complete .

It teaches the principles of cognitive behaviour therapy, using flashed diagrams and online exercises, MoodGYM demonstrates the relationship between thoughts and emotions - users are taught to come to grips with their own feelings and the 'warpy' thoughts that might accompany them. MoodGYM also works through dealing with stress, handling separation and relationship break-ups, as well as relaxation and meditation techniques.

You will be asked to take a couple of minutes at the beginning of each MoodGYM module to complete the Depression and Anxiety quizzes. These quizzes give you an indication of how you are feeling as you progress through MoodGYM. In the Workbook, there is a graph that displays your results on the Depression and Anxiety quizzes. This is useful for monitoring your progress throughout the program.

How This Program Is Designed

Feelings Module

The Feelings module takes about 20 minutes to complete. In this module you:

Find out about negative thinking patterns, biased perceptions of situations, and negative views about the future;

Discover if you have biased views of the future or of yourself;

Learn about how the way you think influences the way you feel; and

Reflect on how you tend to respond to day-to-day challenges.

There are four exercises for you to complete in this module. Your answers are recorded in your on-line workbook, and kept for you to use later in the program.

The final exercise of the Feelings module involves an exercise where you record events that occur over the next 3 days.

Thoughts Module

The Thoughts module takes about 25 minutes to complete. The module begins with depression and anxiety quizzes. After completing these, you will:

    Learn to identify biased or 'warpy' thoughts that lots of people have.

See if you can identify these thoughts in yourself.

Learn how to challenge and contest your thoughts-they may not be accurate!

Find out the areas where you are most vulnerable: Is it the need for approval, the need to be loved, the need to succeed, the need to be perfect…

Start learning about self-esteem and how to improve it.

The last exercise of this module involves keeping a 'diary' of nice things you do for yourself during the next week.

Unwarping Module

The Unwarping module takes at least 30 minutes to complete. After completing the Depression and Anxiety quizzes, you will:

    Learn ways of changing your thinking-for example, taking the role of the reporter, increasing positive thinking, setting up thought experiments, trying new ways of responding, being your own coach and mental biofeedback…try them all and see which works best for you

Work on improving areas where you may be at risk. Based on your responses to the first Depression and Anxiety quizzes, the program will identify your areas of vulnerability.

Get a chance to identify what sorts of activities you like in the Pleasant Events quiz.

This assessment is lengthy (it has 319 questions) but at the end you will find out how frequently you do things you enjoy. You will also find out how you compare to other people. Do you engage in as many enjoyable activities as others? Are there things that you enjoy doing that you aren't doing at the moment? It will be worthwhile when you finish

De-stressing Module

The De-stressing module is designed to help you relax and cope with stress better. The module starts with the Depression and Anxiety quizzes. Once you have completed these quizzes, you will:

    Start learning about stress and how it works.

Find out about the stressors in your life and how they might affect you.

Complete a questionnaire that lets you know if you are vulnerable because you have be exposed to many stressful events in your life recently.

Try out some relaxation exercises that can help you deal with stress. There are three relaxation tapes and each can be downloaded free by clicking on the links - best to download them from a computer that has a 'broadband' connection (large files).

Examine your relationships with your family, particularly with your parents. Although it is written from the perspective of the young person, this section provides information that is useful for both parents and children.

Find out more about relaxation in the Relaxfest, the relaxation game.

Relationships Module

Relationships can be a source of great distress when they go wrong. This module aims to help you cope with and grow after a relationship break-up. The module also describes simple, but highly
effective problem-solving strategies.

After completing the depression and anxiety quizzes, you will learn about:

    The thoughts and feelings that are common in different stages of relationship break-ups.

How to contest your thoughts so that you can cope better with relationship break-ups.

A simple problem solving strategy.

Other things you can do to help manage your condition and feel better about yourself include:

* Sticking to your treatment plan
* Attending therapy sessions as scheduled
* Practicing healthy ways to ease painful emotions, rather than inflicting self-injury
* Not blaming yourself for having the disorder but recognizing your responsibility to get it treated
* Learning what things may trigger angry outbursts or impulsive behavior
* Not being embarrassed by having this condition
* Getting treatment for related problems, such as substance abuse
* Educating yourself about the disorder so you understand its causes and treatments better
* Reaching out to others with the disorder to share insights and experiences

Can a website really act as a personal therapist?

Nicole Dubowitz, National Research Center for Women & Families

I've started a new kind of workout recently... This is made possible by MoodGYM, an interactive website with the goal to "help identify and overcome emotional problems," and "develop good coping skills." But does it really? Can a website really act as a personal therapist?

A study done in Australia by Helen Christensen and her colleagues shows that it really works. She studied 525 people aged 18 and older who tried different online strategies to improve their moods. The 182 who visited MoodGYM tended to reduce "dysfunctional thinking," and symptoms of depression. It was shown to be more effective than a website that just explained depression and included useful information.

Could this really work? I set out to investigate several weeks ago.

At the beginning, MoodGYM appears to preach in sickeningly optimistic generalities, like the typical self-help book, offering brief surveys and a range of characters that illustrate certain personality types. The user can then look at mantras and thought processes of each character and hopefully be able to relate to at least one of them. Once the user can relate to a character, they should ideally begin to acquire some perspective over the sad feelings they've been experiencing.

This may sound cheesy, but MoodGYM seems to embrace cheesiness and humor as mechanisms for users to not take themselves so seriously, which is refreshing. A good example is the "warpy thoughts" exercise, which examines the user's tendency to interpret situations negatively, and how to turn that around. Warpy thoughts include the self-explanatory "disqualifying the positive" and "jumping to conclusions," terms we hear thrown around but often fail to apply to our own daily behavior.

After the warpy thoughts are identified, MoodGYM begins to attack self-esteem issues by allowing the user to practice "talking to [him or her]self like a friend would" and "increasing positive self-interpretations." The "What you think is what you feel" module encourages the user to tackle their own negative thoughts and take control of their direction. For example, what if you talk to someone and make one misinformed remark? You might focus on your blunder and assume you made a fool of yourself, when in reality the conversation as a whole may have been successful and positive.

MoodGYM continues to introduce new ideas and opportunities for the user to discuss personal situations and follow examples on how to view them in a positive, or at least less negative light. I was actually motivated to do this because all of MoodGYM's theories were explained in a comprehensible, straightforward way, and continued to use the encouraging, humorous tone they'd had since the beginning.

MoodGYM emphasizes the importance of self-evaluation and looking at the "big picture." It is based on a type of therapy called Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which focuses on changing how people think about themselves and how they behave. While some would say this is advice is ordinary, somehow MoodGYM has figured out a way to connect it to our lives, convincing us that insecurities really are overcomable if one wants to overcome them.

MoodGYM's success is undoubtedly built around the person's desire to improve their attitude. Since the website is highly interactive, how much one gets out of it depends on how much is put into it.

Can MoodGYM replace human contact or medication? Probably not. But it is free and can provide insight to a range of people, those who have been in a rut from a few months to a lifetime.

From my experience, I believe it can be effective for anyone, as long as they are willing to log on with an open mind.




Last modified: 
September 21, 2016