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Australian Social Work


Advanced access published


anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy, computerized treatment, depression, COVID-19 pandemic, youth, meta-analysis, rapid review, online therapy, social work


Global estimates suggest that 25% and 20% of youth have reported elevated symptoms of depression and anxiety, respectively, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to baseline functioning (Racine et al., 2021). Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been found to significantly benefit young people experiencing anxiety and depression (Christ et al., 2020). Pandemic-related protocols have led many mental health services to shift to online platforms. We wondered about the comparative efficacy of online versus offline CBT for young people between the ages of 10-25. We responded with a rapid review and meta-analysis of eight randomized controlled trial outcomes. The sample-weighted, between-group effect size, the standardized mean difference (d), was essentially zero at longest follow-up (nine months), indicating that online and offline CBT were equally effective for youth with depression and anxiety; both online and offline groups symptom alleviation rates of approximately 90%. Recognizing a lack of diversity in the samples led us to emphasize comparative meta-analyses across the most potentially vulnerable minoritized groups in future research. This would help social workers and allied mental health providers support diverse clients and decision makers navigate the troubled clinical and social policy waters of the pandemic and its aftermath.