New online tool helps patients manage depression | Kaiser Permanente

Narrator: Julie Clark has had depression
since she was in junior high. Julie Clark: It started when I was 12
and Ive been seeing therapists off and on since that time, and I’m 56 now. She takes medication, and sees a counselor,
but last year she tried something new. Greg Clarke, PhD: Moodhelper is an
internet based website for teaching individuals skills to overcome depression. Narrator: Clarke and his colleagues
developed MoodHelper using the principles of cognitive behavioral
therapy, a proven treatment for depression. The goal is to help people feel better. Greg: We can’t really find the dial
to changing feelings directly. What we’ve gotta do is to take a step back
to changing thinking and changing your activities, and that in turn, we believe, will help you
change how you feel, feel better over time. Narrator: The site helps users identify their
unrealistic or unhelpful thoughts and resulting feelings, and then helps them come
up with more realistic counter thoughts. Julie: The other thing is that in MoodHelper
there is a list of about 300 activities to do, and I would just forget, and I still have problems
with my memory, I would just forget that there are things I like to do. Narrator: For Julie one of those things
is playing with a friend’s cat, a very simple activity that can help to boost her mood. The MoodHelper site also asks people
to measure their mood over time. Julie says the mood log helps her realize
she’s actually making progress. Julie: I could go back and say, you know,
two weeks ago I was almost suicidal, and look how much better
I feel just in two weeks. Narrator: Moodhelper is not meant to
take the place of in-person therapy, but aims to fill in the gaps in between sessions. Kirby McCurtis was diagnosed with
seasonal affective disorder after moving to Oregon from California.
She’s looking for a counselor, but in the meantime she’s enrolled in a study testing
the website along with telephone counseling. Alison (on phone): Hey Kirby, It’s Alison.
Kirby: Hi Alison, how are you? Alison: So fill me in on what’s been going on since
last time I talked with you a week ago. Kirby: My grandmother passed away
right before Thanksgiving. Narrator: During this session phone coach
Alison Firemark talks Kirby through the thoughts and feelings she had when her
extended family gathered for the funeral. Kirby: I’m gonna put sad, but I don’t know, I
think there should be more than that. Alison: I always explain to them that we
are going to personalize and customize our phone calls depending on what
they are bringing to the table. Narrator: Firemark says some people
need help learning the tools on the website, others need
encouragement and support. Alison: Do you see Kirby how your
belief here isn’t unrealistic. It actually is the truth. It’s just not very
helpful, not helping you feel any better. Narrator: Over 25-hundred people in Washington
and Oregon have used the MoodHelper site, most were also taking medication
and seeing a counselor. Early studies show that people who
used MoodHelper had an additional 20 to 25 percent improvement
in their depression scores. I’m Mary Sawyers reporting.

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  1. Looks encouraging, but requires an invitation code to access. People without insurance or some type of formal counseling program cannot make use of the site.

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