This article was produced and financed by The Research Council of Norway
Strenghten your willpower over the Internet
A psychology professor-cum-entrepreneur has taken on the task of helping people to drink less, quit smoking and exercise more – over the Internet.
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The Research Council of Norway
Pål Kraft and his company Changetech offer web-based services to help people to make those changes that require a little extra willpower.
“When developing our programmes, we have dug into the research literature, systematised it and extracted the therapeutic elements we believe can be digitalised," says the Norwegian professor.
The self-help programmes focus on challenges related to tobacco and alcohol use, post-natal depression, physical training, as well as coping with chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, HIV, rheumatic disorders and diabetes.
Users never meet a therapist face-to-face; instead the programmes are delivered to users’ computers, iPads or smartphones, in a format similar to an e-Learning programme.
There are of course some drawbacks to the fact that users never talk to a therapist. It is impossible to achieve 100 per cent individualised therapy without one-on-one therapy sessions.
But according to Kraft, “The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.”
“This kind of therapy is easily accessible. It can be used anytime and anywhere the user wants. In addition, it offers the option of anonymity. For example, we know that it is difficult for many women with alcohol problems to seek help, and we can see that groups like these are overrepresented in our programmes.”
The company is also developing intervention programmes to help to prevent depression and has developed conflict management programmes, tailored for use in couples therapy and childrearing.
Based on psychological research
“We base our programmes on the therapy conducted in the therapist’s office,” explains Kraft, “where for over 50 years psychologists have been using and refining a set of tools whose efficacy has been documented in various types of research.“
The Changetech programmes are used by 1.5 million users in 55 countries. The findings of the preliminary clinical effectiveness studies that are conducted are promising.
“I think the reason our programmes are so effective is because they are interactive. Although the programmes do not directly involve a therapist, users become deeply involved in the therapeutic process. The fact that treatment extends over a longer period than is usually the case in ordinary treatment is also an advantage,” says Dr Kraft.
Ordinarily psychologists in Norway offer a programme consisting of 10-12 one-hour sessions. In comparison, Changetech’s programme for changing alcohol consumption habits has a 58-day active change phase, with a follow-up phase of up to one year.
Changetech has received funding under the Research Council of Norway’s Programme for User-driven Research-based Innovation (BIA).
Translated by: Victoria Coleman and Carol B. Eckmann