The Online Therapy Unit is a clinical research unit situated on the territories of the nêhiyawak, Anihšināpēk, Dakota, Lakota, and Nakoda, and the homeland of the Métis/Michif Nation at the University of Regina.
The Online Therapy Unit is partnered with the Saskatchewan Health Authority to provide free, online mental health therapy under the leadership of Dr. Heather Hadjistavropoulos from the University of Regina using programs that were initially developed at Macquarie University in Australia. The Unit provides education and training to diverse health care professionals and students on how to deliver services online and conducts research on various aspects of online therapy such as how to best train therapists and deliver Internet-based Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (ICBT).
The Online Therapy Unit consists of trained therapists, or guides, who provide ICBT to individuals who have difficulties with depression, anxiety, alcohol use and other health conditions. Due to professional licensing, there are some courses with therapist support that are only available to residents of Saskatchewan. However, some of our therapists are registered to provide treatment to individuals in other locations, or courses may be offered as self directed with support from a guide or a coach which then allows all Canadian residents to participate. Please check the page of the course you are interested in for more details.
Step 1 — Choose a program
Read through the description of the Online Therapy programs currently being offered by the Unit. All programs provide similar material but are tailored to better address the concerns of specific clients. We are currently offering the following three programs to residents of Saskatchewan:
Step 2 — Complete a screening
Before you begin one of our online programs we want to ensure that this type of therapy is a good fit for you. To do this, it is necessary for us to understand what you are experiencing at this time.
If you are interested in an online course, follow the “Apply Now” link provided under the program description, to register for our online screening. For this screening, you will be asked for your contact information and to answer questionnaires about your symptoms. This should take approximately 30 minutes. After you complete the online screening you will be directed to book an appointment with an Online Therapy Unit staff person who will conduct a telephone follow-up call.
This interview is done over the phone and takes approximately 15 minutes. In this conversation, an Online Therapy staff person will discuss your responses with you and determine if one of the online courses is a good fit for your concerns at this time.
If you have questions, you can also call the Online Therapy Unit at 306-337-3331.
We try our best to provide you with the best service that we can and we are dedicated to supporting people to manage a variety of symptoms related to their mental health and health conditions. We are a very small team, and we need your help. Before applying, please ensure that you are prepared to accept the following responsibilities:
Each course requires perseverance, determination, and courage. If you apply, you will need to take time to learn about your condition and work on structured strategies to cope. You can expect to spend several hours each week reviewing and working on the Lessons and homework assignments. The homework assignments are required, because just reading about helpful techniques for managing symptoms won’t fix the problem, particularly because most people have had their symptoms for many years. Our courses are not overnight cures, but they can really help. If you follow the guidelines we expect that you will learn the foundations for success and, with consistent practice, you should gain mastery over your symptoms.
The contact you will have with a therapist during your online course varies by program. The Online Therapy Unit provides support in a few different ways:
When you take a therapist-assisted course with the Online Therapy Unit you will be assigned a therapist who will check in with you on a weekly basis during the course. The therapist assigned to you may be a mental health care provider working for the health region, a therapist working for the unit, or a graduate student working under the supervision of a registered mental health care provider. Each week your therapist will check in with you through secure online messaging on our website and will answer any questions or concerns you have sent to them over the week. Sometimes, therapists will call clients in addition to messaging them if this is felt to be clinically helpful. In a therapist-assisted program, therapists are trained to offer therapeutic support to clients as they work through the material. The therapist will typically offer support and encouragement, as well as assist clients in understanding and applying techniques introduced in the course. Contact with therapists can be shorter or longer depending on the client concern and averages 20 minutes per week. If you would like to know if the course you are interested in is therapist-assisted please refer to the course description page for more information.
Guide/Health Educator-assisted courses
In a guided course, guides set aside approximately 10 minutes each week to answer basic questions about the course content, and encourage clients to continue with their work on the course. Contact with guides in a guided course is typically briefer than in a therapist-assisted course but on occasion will be longer if there is a significant clinical issue. Clients can contact their guide(s) through the secure message system, and their guide(s) will respond at least once a week either by secure messaging or a brief phone call. Research shows that this guidance can be very helpful and many clients do very well with this level of support. At times, we offer self-guided programs. In this case, clients work independently. Guides only get in touch if they notice a sudden increase in symptoms. If you would like to know if the course you are interested in is guide assisted or self-guided please refer to the course description page for more information.
In a self-guided course, clients work independently on course materials and are notified by external email when lesson materials become available. Clients can message technical support directly through the website should any technical or website issues arise. During their course clients do not have scheduled contact with a therapist or guide. However, client files are monitored each week by Online Therapy Unit clinicians for significant changes in wellbeing or sudden increase in symptoms. If concerns arise, an Online Therapy Unit clinician will reach out to the client for brief support and make service recommendations. If you would like to know if the course you are interested in is self-guided please refer to the course description page for more information.
The Online Therapy Unit website is a safe and secure way for clients and therapists to communicate and to access therapy lessons. The information is transmitted and stored in secure ways. Information is encrypted and transmitted over secure HTTP protocol similar to online banking. All messages are sent and stored on our secure server which is also encrypted. Your identifying information on the server is only available to the therapist assigned to work with you, the Online Therapy Unit coordinator, and supervisor.
Online Therapy offers many advantages. These include: not needing to schedule an appointment, avoiding visiting an office if transportation or stigma are a concern for you, having more control over the pace of therapy, accessing the online material from the location of your choice at your convenience, printing off the materials, messaging your therapist at any time through our secure system, maybe feeling more comfortable disclosing personal information online than in person, and enjoying the benefits of the service provided free of charge.
Sometimes the support provided through Online Therapy is not always sufficient for people with certain mental health concerns. Examples of situations where Online Therapy would not be a good fit include when someone has thoughts about harming themselves or others, or if they’ve recently harmed themselves or others. If a person is in a life-threatening situation they should seek out immediate in-person assistance. Also, if someone appears to have delusions or hallucinations, or is currently misusing drugs or alcohol (this does not apply to the Alcohol Change Course), Online Therapy would not be the best option for treatment. If you are wondering if Online Therapy is for you, complete the screening process set-up for your program of interest.
We typically recommend that if you are currently seeing a mental health professional, you do not also use Online Therapy. There may be instances, however, when this is appropriate, such as when this is recommended by your therapist as a supplement to existing treatment (e.g., when seeing a psychiatrist primarily for medication management, when on a long waiting list for services).
We want people to have the opportunity to get the most out of our courses. Due to the fact that our courses are time restricted, we ask that you consider starting the course when you have the time available to work through the program consistently, on a weekly basis. If something unforeseen should come up once you have started the program, please message your therapist or Online Therapy Unit staff to let them know. In the message, please indicate how long you will be away and when you plan to be back online.
Once you have started Online Therapy, we hope that you will participate for the full program. However, we realize that some people may decide that Online Therapy is not for them. If you decide to discontinue your participation in Online Therapy, please let us know. You are able to withdraw from the program at any time without any impact on your future healthcare. We would appreciate your feedback about your experience with our courses. Since we are continually trying to improve our courses, you could help us identify things that could be improved.