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Br J Psychiatry. 2012 Jan;200(1):15-21. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.110.084756.

Efficacy, cost-effectiveness and acceptability of self-help interventions for anxiety disorders: systematic review.

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Department of Psychological Medicine, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.



Self-help interventions for psychiatric disorders represent an increasingly popular alternative to therapist-administered psychological therapies, offering the potential of increased access to cost-effective treatment.


To determine the efficacy, cost-effectiveness and acceptability of self-help interventions for anxiety disorders.


Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of self-help interventions for anxiety disorders were identified by searching nine online databases. Studies were grouped according to disorder and meta-analyses were conducted where sufficient data were available. Overall meta-analyses of self-help v. waiting list and therapist-administered treatment were also undertaken. Methodological quality was assessed independently by two researchers according to criteria set out by the Cochrane Collaboration.


Thirty-one RCTs met inclusion criteria for the review. Results of the overall meta-analysis comparing self-help with waiting list gave a significant effect size of 0.84 in favour of self-help. Comparison of self-help with therapist-administered treatments revealed a significant difference in favour of the latter with an effect size of 0.34. The addition of guidance and the presentation of multimedia or web-based self-help materials improved treatment outcome.


Self-help interventions appear to be an effective way of treating individuals diagnosed with social phobia and panic disorder. Further research is required to evaluate the cost-effectiveness and acceptability of these interventions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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