NICE backs digital CBT for youngsters with depression

NICE has recommended digital cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) should be used as a first-line treatment for children and young people with mild depression.

The draft guideline is an overarching document that paves the way for more use of this technology, and is part of NICE’s drive to encourage more use of digital health therapies on the NHS.

It also fits with goals in the NHS Long Term Plan to encourage use of digital technology on the NHS.

Digital CBT is already recommended by NICE for adults with mild to moderate depression.

NICE made the recommendations following a trial published in The Lancet looking at psychological therapies in young people.

Digital CBT can be delivered on mobile phones, tablets or computers and can be made readily available, avoiding waiting lists and giving children and young people faster access to psychological help.

NICE said it can be offered to children or young people, age five to eighteen, with continuing symptoms of mild depression who do not have other significant health conditions or suicidal thoughts.

Group CBT, group interpersonal psychotherapy and group mindfulness are also recommended as first-line treatments and the NICE committee highlighted that the choice of treatment should be based on clinical need and patient and carer preferences wherever possible.

NICE said decisions on therapy should be based on a child or young person’s history and circumstances, such as their family situation and how they may function at school.

The cost-effectiveness body noted it is also important to consider the level of development and maturity of the child or young person receiving treatment.

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.”

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director said: “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is constantly evolving and the fact that young people are usually at the forefront of this change, updating this draft guidance is another step forward.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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