Objective: Patients often have to sustain long waiting periods between the time they first apply for psychotherapy and the actual uptake of the treatment. To support patients who are on a wait-list for inpatient psychosomatic treatment an Internet-based preparatory treatment (VORSTAT) was developed. In a randomized controlled trial, VORSTAT proved to increase treatment motivation prior to intake and to accelerate the accommodation phase at the beginning of inpatient treatment. No impact of VORSTAT on inpatient treatment outcome was found. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effectiveness of VORSTAT after implementing the service into routine care.
Methods: A large naturalistic observational study comparing VORSTAT participants (N = 911) against non-participants (N = 1721) was conducted. Propensity scores were used to control for potential confounding variables due to the non-randomized group allocation. Reliable improvement of self-reported impairment achieved during inpatient treatment was used as outcome measure.
Results: VORSTAT participants showed higher rates of reliable improvement in physical impairment (50.8% vs. 44.9%), psychological impairment (41.2% vs. 29.9%), and social problems (22.3% vs. 15.2%).
Conclusion: an Internet-based preparation for psychotherapy is an effective approach to improve outcome of inpatient psychosomatic treatment.