Free online computerized cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression

Free? Then can it be worth much? Ah, that might depend on how hard you work. This is working with a computer, not a human.

Mind you, this may not work as well as seeing a real live therapist who knows the CBT approach well. But lots of people can't get real live CBT, because they:
  • Can't afford it
  • Can't find it
  • Don't like the whole idea of telling someone their problems (guys?)
  • Think they've already had it (but haven't)
So, if there was a way to get cognitive therapy for free, that would be pretty nifty. Well, there is.

What is MoodGYM?

MoodGYM is an innovative, interactive web program designed to prevent depression. It consists of five modules, an interactive game, anxiety and depression assessments, downloadable relaxation audio, a workbook and feedback assessment.

Using flashed diagrams and online exercises, MoodGYM teaches the principles of cognitive behavior therapy – a proven treatment for depression. It also demonstrates the relationship between thoughts and emotions, and works through dealing with stress and relationship break-ups, as well as teaching relaxation and meditation techniques.

MoodGYM was designed and developed by staff at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University, in collaboration with other researchers, mental health experts, web and graphic designers, and software engineers.

Each module explores issues such as:
  • why someone feels the way they do,
  • changing ‘warped’ thoughts,
  • changing the way they think, 
  • knowing what makes an individual upset,
  • assertiveness and interpersonal skills training.

This idea originated, in a way, not with the internet but with another technology: telephone-based "interactive voice response" (IVR). Trying to make CBT more widely available, a team of researchers created an IVR system of therapy. I never got to try it, but apparently it worked as well as a live therapist.  Then, an intermediate form of computer-assisted therapy was tested at Harvard, in which a computer program was used to deliver some of the basic explanations and planning of CBT.  Therapist time was reduced accordingly. This worked as well as standard, "live" therapy. Now, there is a program in which all of your interaction is with your computer, none with a human.


Here are several ways in which this free program could harm you:
  • You try it, it doesn't work, and you conclude cognitive behavioral therapy doesn't work for you. Don't do that.
  • You try it, raise your hopes, it doesn't seem to help, you feel disappointed (especially if you tried hard)
  • You try this instead of a good, live therapist whom you could go see, within a few weeks, when you could afford it.
  • You stay up too late at night on your computer doing this homework instead of sleeping!
There is no evidence that this computer approach is better than a live therapist.  So since we know that good live CBT really works; and since we don't have a head-to-head comparison of computer versus live therapist yet; for now, you should only use this approach if for some reason it's clear: you need additional antidepressant help, and you are not going to be able to see a good, live therapist.

Why should you try it? If you really, for any reason, can't get CBT some other way; and if you need to add an additional antidepressant element into your treatment, and you want with all your hurt to make it work, the program might be quite useful for you and will help your recovery.  

Technical Requirements

Before using MoodGYM, please make sure that:
  • You have the flash 4.0 plug in (so that you can view graphics)
  • JavaScript is enabled (so that you can view extra content)
  • 'Cookies' are enabled (so that you can log in). If necessary, you can enable cookies using your browser's Help utility. Cookies are temporary and are deleted when you close your browser.
MoodGYM makes frequent use of multimedia presentations and graphics. If you are visually impaired, you may be using browser software that is unable to display some of this material.

Interface Languages

English and Norwegian


The program MoodGym is free and anonymous for all users. And there are no ads!


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