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Responding to Violence, Suicide, Psychosis and Trauma

From anger management to addiction: online therapies

* Lucy Atkins
* The Guardian, Tuesday 12 May 2009

Eating Disorders offers multimedia support using videos, podcasts, mobile phone browsing, live web chats, message boards, blogs and email or text help, plus one-to-one online support for under 25s from trained advisers. “Authoritative websites are essential as the antidote to pro-anorexia websites,” says Janet Treasure of the Institute of Psychiatry who is also BEAT’s chief medical adviser. The programme allows sufferers to work through their issues and behaviour at their own pace, anonymously, at home. The online CBT approach to bulimia has been tested by a team from the Institute of Psychiatry, and government guidelines suggest that CBT is the best psychological treatment for bulimia. “I didn’t think anyone would answer my message but they did,” says one bulimic woman who used the site. “They were very supportive and I didn’t feel ashamed for the first time ever.”

Sex therapy offers expert help from accredited sex therapists. You fill in a detailed questionnaire about your problem and get a confidential online response within three working days, for £25. Follow-ups with the same therapist cost £35 a pop. The site is run by Paula Hall, a respected sexual psychotherapist accredited with the British Association of Sexual & Relationship Therapy and registered with the UK Council of Psychotherapy. She also works as a family counsellor for Relate. “Lots of people find it difficult to talk about their sexual problems and it’s a lot easier to take that step online,” she says. The virtual approach works best for detailed advice, tips or information on specific sexual problems but, “if it’s very obviously a long-term relationship problem, face-to face sex therapy is usually more appropriate,” says Hall.


Former City trader Dan Butcher established the Recovery Network ( – a social networking site with a difference – after his cocaine addiction landed him in the Priory. The site allows addicts and their families to support each other anonymously. Subscribers also get access to two full-time, trained addiction therapists who run Ask Our Expert sessions, group therapy and live web chats. They can also chat, blog and share information under the watchful eye of the site’s monitors. Real-world friendships spring up and families and friends of addicts feel they are not alone. Monthly subscriptions cost £8.50.

Young people is run by the NSPCC and offers counselling, support and information for 12- to 16-year-olds on any troubling issue (abuse, bullying, exams, drugs and self-harm are common ones). Young people can share problems on message boards, or set up a private inbox and email an adviser, who will reply within 24 hours. A confidential “121” service also means that you can talk online with an adviser (you get the same person if you need to talk again). is another innovative source of online support where young people can access virtual peer support in the form of interviews with other young people talking about their experiences of anything from teenage cancer to the pressure to perform like a porn star during sex. The site is the brainchild of the DIPEx Research Group at the University of Oxford, so there are plenty of health bigwigs on board, as well as an introduction about the power of storytelling from writer Philip Pullman, and a video clip of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke explaining how to use the site. Both are free of charge.

Anger management is based in the US and run by psychotherapist and anger management specialist Kathy Garber who treats individuals, corporate clients and those referred by US courts. You buy your self-help programme in time chunks (starting at 10 hours for £33) and sessions will address your anger issues and develop problem-solving and communication skills. There is no direct contact with a therapist though, so this may not work for all. As Phillip Hodson of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy cautions, “Online anger management therapy will not work for everyone – anger can be very difficult and complicated to tackle, so group or one-to one therapy tends to be most effective.”

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