Published April 4, 2017

Millions of Americans suffer from depression and other mood disorders, even as there are effective treatments to free them from their grip. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, is a form of talk therapy that helps people learn how to challenge negative thought patterns and behaviors that affect themselves and those around them.

But it can be difficult for many people to find time to see a therapist. Some might feel uncomfortable opening up to a stranger. Surmounting these and other barriers to care are the basis of a new program that lets anyone with a computer or phone to get the help they need.

A new pilot program sponsored by Capital BlueCross provides an online program for people with five common mental health issues, including substance abuse, depression, anxiety, insomnia and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The patients — who are drawn from 21 counties in central Pennsylvania — are enrolled in a computerized cognitive behavioral therapy program and also talk with a case manager by phone. Patients who suffer more severe symptoms are referred for additional care.

Eighty percent of patients enrolled in the pilot program reported feeling better in just 30 days. For those with insomnia, 80 percent saw a clinical improvement in their sleep. Nearly three-quarters of substance abuse patients significantly reduced their hazardous use of alcohol. More than half of patients with depression saw their mood improve. And for those with anxiety, more than six in 10 experienced a reduction in feelings of fear and panic.

Capital BlueCross and its behavioral health partner, Magellan, teamed up with Cobalt, makers of a suite of cognitive behavioral therapy software. Patients, including Capital BlueCross members, used the programs on their computers or smartphones, and their sessions were private, confidential and compliant with the federal medical privacy law. The program has received the highest ranking from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Computer-based cognitive therapy can work. It’s a simple, easily accessible solution for some of the nation’s most common health problems. For millions of Americans, help for mental health concerns could be as close as the phone in their pocket.

The ‘Spotlight on Health’ series provides a forum for expert perspectives on the top five conditions affecting America’s health today, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index. Mood disorders rank #1 out of 200 conditions.


The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 36 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.