23 January 2019

Offer digital CBT to young people with mild depression, NICE says

Children and young people can be offered digital cognitive behavioural therapy (digital CBT, also known as computer CBT) as a first-line treatment for mild depression.

Digital CBT is delivered on mobile phones, tablets or computers, meaning users can access help quickly, avoiding waiting lists.

Group CBT, group interpersonal psychotherapy and group mindfulness are also recommended as first-line treatments.

NICE says that the choice of treatment should be based on clinical need and patient and carer preferences. The child or young person’s history, circumstances and maturity should also be considered.

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.

“We want to ensure children are offered a range of therapies to suit their needs and individual preferences are placed at the heart of their care. The evidence showed digital CBT and group therapy were most effective at reducing depressive symptoms and we have recommend these as first-line options for children and young people with mild 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is constantly evolving and the fact that young people are usually at the forefront of this change, updating this draft guidance is another step forward.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.”

This draft recommendation is made in a fast-tracked update to NICE’s existing guideline on depression in children and young people aged 5 to 18. It follows a recent trial which showed the benefits young people can gain from psychological therapies.

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

The guideline is now out for consultation until 20 February 2019.

We want to ensure children are offered a range of therapies to suit their needs and individual preferences are placed at the heart of their care.

Paul Chrisp, director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE

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.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director,