LiU students help advance research on perfectionism

Last year’s graduating students from the psychology programme took on the role of treaters in a study of perfectionism and internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy. How did it go?

Perfectionism in its manageable form is often associated with performance and success. But perfectionism has also proven to have links to several psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Devin study, which the students worked with, aimed to evaluate an internet-based treatment for people who felt that their desire for perfectionism hampered their day-to-day lives. The form of treatment was cognitive behavioural therapy and all contact between the treating students and the patients took place online. The study comprised 150 people, with each student responsible for 12 or 13 patients.

Malin SkoglundMalin Skoglund was one of the students who worked in the study. She explains that initially she was critical to the treatment method, and that all treatment would be online:

“I doubted that we could establish good contact with the patients, when we weren’t going to meet them face-to-face. But it turned out the contact is just as good. Also, as a treater you get more time to consider your response to more complex questions.”

The study results show that online CBT has a good effect on perfectionism sufferers. The patients’ anxiety and depression symptoms eased, and their quality of life increased. The final report on the study is yet to be published, because the final follow-ups of the patients are underway.

Malin Skoglund (right) did her degree project together with her classmate Linnéa Trosell. They investigated whether different factors could predict the results of the treatment. For instance they looked at the degree of perfectionism, but they didn’t see statistical evidence that the degree of perfectionism affected the result of the treatment.

“This means that in practice, whatever degree of perfectionism the patients suffered from, they got just as much help from the treatment. Online treatment puts a certain onus on the patients. They have to be able to take in an amount of information through text and moving images. And online it can be difficult to discover conditions other than the one that you plan to treat. A well-conducted prior assessment of the patient’s condition is vital to successful treatment,” says Skoglund.

In an increasingly digital world, is online therapy the treatment form of the future?

“Yes, I think so. There is actually a lot of research in the field, but it’s difficult to get it out into practice. Some units offer it already, but it takes time to introduce.”

This spring, students in the tenth term of the psychology programme will do their degree project within the framework of a study on online treatment of depression. The patient group consists of people older than 65 years. Professor Gerhard Andersson at LiU’s Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning is in charge of the study, which is called Almstudien (the Elm Study).


Photo: iStock

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