Blended group therapy combines group sessions with Web- and mobile-based treatment modules. Consequently, blended group therapy widens the choice within blended interventions at reasonable costs. This is the first qualitative study on blended group therapy.
The objective of this study was to investigate the patient-centered feasibility of blended group therapy for major depression, with special emphasis on the fit and dynamic interplay between face-to-face and internet-based elements.
A total of 22 patients who had a variety of experiences through participating in one of the two blended group therapy interventions were interviewed following a semistructured interview guide. In-depth interviews were analyzed by three trained psychologists, using thematic analysis and a rule-guided internet-based program (QCAmap). The transcript of the interviews (113,555 words) was reduced to 1081 coded units, with subsequent extraction of 16 themes.
Web- and mobile-based elements were described as a treatment facilitator and motivator, increasing the salience and consolidation of cognitive behavioral therapy materials, resulting in in- and inter-session alignment to the treatment. Additionally, patients valued the option of intimate Web-based self-disclosure (by lateral patient-therapist communication), and therapists were provided with tools for between-session monitoring and reinforcement of exercising. In this context, group phenomena seemed to back up therapists' efforts to increase treatment engagement. The dissonance because of noncompliance with Web-based tasks and the constriction of in-session group interaction were considered as possible negative effects. Finally, issues of tailoring and structure seemed to fulfill different preconditions compared with individual therapy.
Blended group therapy constitutes a structured and proactive approach to work with depression, and the integration of both modalities initiates a beneficial interplay. Results support the patient-centered value of blended group therapy and provide the first insight into blended group therapy's role in fostering therapeutic treatment factors. However, potential negative effects should be considered carefully.