First Time Users of Therapist-Assisted Internet Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: A Qualitative Examination of Psychology Graduate Students in Training
Depression and anxiety are the most commonly experienced mental health conditions in Canada. Research has shown that one of the significant factors in the under-treatment of mental health conditions is a lack of access to providers. Researchers have begun to create novel ways to address the problem of a lack of access to mental health services, such as offering Therapist-Assisted Internet Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (TAICBT). This involves clients reviewing psychoeducational information on the use of cognitive and behavioural strategies for coping with a mental health condition over the Internet. This is combined with communicating with a therapist who provides support in the application of the material, typically over email or the phone. TAICBT has been shown to be more accessible and inexpensive, than traditional therapy. The focus of this study was to investigate and document the perceived positive and negative experiences as well as facilitators and barriers encountered by student therapists when delivering TAICBT. The experiences of 12 students were captured in a semi-structured interview. Thematic content analysis was used to allow for important themes to surface during the interviews. It was evident that students saw considerable value in learning TAICBT. For example, they identified the experience was a beneficial clinical training experience and found TAICBT was a valuable service for the community with a small time commitment on their part. Some challenges to providing TAICBT were also identified by students, such as the significant time investment needed to learn a new approach to therapy. Drawing on the perceived strengths and challenges of our program, others who develop a TAICBT training program should consider several points including: Structuring TAICBT within a graduate program as a formal practicum; organizing the program in a manner that allows students to have significant flexibility in the delivery of TAICBT; ensuring the training workshop includes a significant practical component; and having accessible and supportive staff members and supervisors involved in the program. Previous research has focused on treatment outcomes in randomized control trials. This study adds to the literature understanding effective pedagogical approach for training in TAICBT. The process of training students in TAICBT is a crucial step towards incorporating emerging research and technology into routine mental health practice.