Digital CBT for young people with mild depression

NICE has recommended that children and young people should be offered digital cognitive behavioural therapy as a first-line treatment for mild depression.

Known as digital CBT, the app therapy offering is delivered on mobile phones, tablets or computers, meaning users can access help quickly, avoiding waiting lists. Group CBT, group interpersonal psychotherapy and group mindfulness have also recommended as first-line treatments by the NHS’s treatment advisers.

Digital CBT, which is already recommended for adults with mild to moderate depression, is likely to help children and young people avoid potentially long delays to see a therapist and reduce the pressure on NHS child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). NICE says that it should be used as a first-line treatment and prescribing routinely for that age group.

Paul Chrisp, director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, said: “In this update to our depression in children guideline, we reviewed evidence for the most effective psychological interventions for children and young people with depression. The guideline update emphasises the importance of a child or young person’s personal choice when receiving treatment for depression.

“We want to ensure children are offered a range of therapies to suit their needs and individual preferences are placed at the heart of their care. The evidence showed digital CBT and group therapy were most effective at reducing depressive symptoms and we have recommend these as first-line options for children and young people with mild depression.”

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, added: "Given how quickly technology is constantly evolving and the fact that young people are usually at the forefront of this change, updating this draft guidance is another step forward. Digital and online interventions can play an effective and important role in treatment, particularly when backed up by face to face support, and the NHS Long Term Plan makes clear that the health service will continue to look to harness the benefits these advancements can bring.”

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