Supported internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy programs for depression, anxiety, and stress in university students: Open, non-randomised trial of acceptability, effectiveness, and satisfaction

Jorge E. Palacios, Derek Richards, Riley Palmer, Carissa Coudray, Stefan G. Hofmann, Patrick A. Palmieri, Patricia Frazier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Many university campuses have limited mental health services that cannot cope with the high demand. One alternative is to use internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) as a way of tackling barriers such as lack of availability and scheduling issues. Objective: This study aimed to assess feasibility, acceptability, effectiveness, and satisfaction of a supported iCBT intervention offering 3 programs on depression, anxiety, and stress to university students. The design was an open or nonrandomized feasibility trial. Methods: Participants were recruited from 3 counseling centers at a large midwestern University in the United States. Those agreeing to take part chose 1 of 3 iCBT programs-Space from Depression, Space from Anxiety, or Space from Stress-all comprised 8 modules of media-rich interactive content. Participants were supported throughout the trial by a trained professional. The Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9), Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7 (GAD-7) questionnaire, and stress subscale of the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) were completed at baseline, 8 weeks, and 3-month follow-up. A Satisfaction With Treatment (SAT) questionnaire was completed at 8 weeks, and qualitative interviews were completed by a subsample of participants at 3 months. Results: A total of 102 participants were recruited, with 52 choosing Space from Anxiety, 31 choosing Space from Depression, and 19 choosing Space from Stress. Mixed-effects models showed a significant decrease in symptoms of depression (F4=6.36, P<.001), anxiety (F4=7.97, P<.001), and stress (F4=8.50, P<.001) over time across all 3 programs. The largest decreases in PHQ-9 scores at 8 weeks were among participants who chose the Space from Depression program (d=0.84); at 3 months, the largest decreases in PHQ-9 scores were among those who chose the Space from Stress program (d=0.74). The largest decreases in GAD-7 scores were among those who chose the Space from Anxiety program (d=0.74 at 8 weeks and d=0.94 at 3 months). The largest decrease in DASS-21 stress subscale scores was among those who chose the Space from Stress program (d=0.49 at 8 weeks and d=1.16 at 3 months). The mean time spent using the platform per session was 27.4 min (SD 33.8), and participants completed 53% (SD 37.6) of the total program content on average. Most (37/53, 69%) participants found the programs helpful or very helpful and liked the convenience and flexibility of the intervention. Qualitative interviews (n=14) indicated the intervention met students' expectations, and they saw it as a valuable complement to face-to-face treatment. Conclusions: The iCBT programs tested in our study appear to be feasible, acceptable, and effective in a university environment. Participants described the benefits of having a flexible, supported Web-based intervention available on campus. Larger trials should be conducted to further test the effectiveness of supported Web-based interventions that give students a choice of program depending on their symptom profile.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere11467
JournalJMIR Mental Health
Volume5
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Jorge E Palacios, Derek Richards, Riley Palmer, Carissa Coudray, Stefan G Hofmann, Patrick A Palmieri, Patricia Frazier.

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Depression
  • Students

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