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Many patients with phobia/panic find it hard to access effective treatment.
To test the feasibility of computer-guided exposure therapy for phobia/panic.
Self-referrals were screened for 20 min and, if suitable, had six sessions of computer-guided self-help (from a system called Fear Fighter). Pre— and post-treatment ratings of 54 patients were compared with those of 31 similar out-patients with phobia/panic who received the same treatment guided by a clinician.
At pre-treatment, computer-guided cases were slightly less severe than clinician-guided patients. In a post-treatment intent-to-treat analysis, both groups improved comparably but computer-guided patients spent 86% less time with a clinician than did purely clinician-guided patients, who had no access to the computer system.
Computer-guided self-exposure therapy appeared feasible and effective for self-referrals and saved much clinician time. A controlled study is now needed.