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Background: Despite the fact that internet-delivered cognitive behaviour therapy (iCBT) can be used to effectively reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, not all clients benefit from treatment. Opportunities exist to further enhance treatment outcomes in order to maximize the impact of iCBT. Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a clinical tool used by therapists to help facilitate clients’ motivation to change. Integrating MI and face-to-face therapy in the treatment of anxiety has been shown to result in better treatment response and completion relative to face-to-face therapy alone. Therefore, there is a possibility that combining iCBT with online MI can result in similar outcomes. This investigation sought to first develop a brief, interactive online MI pre-treatment that was designed to increase motivation to engage in iCBT for anxiety and depression. Once the protocol was developed and piloted, we examined the impact of the online MI pre-treatment on motivation levels, symptom change, and treatment engagement/completion.
Methods: A total of 480 clients applying to iCBT were randomly assigned to first receive the MI pre-treatment or no pre-treatment. The online MI pre-treatment consisted of a single lesson that comprised of videos, exercises, and feedback designed to increase intrinsic motivation to engage in iCBT. All clients then participated in an 8-week transdiagnostic iCBT program for anxiety and/or depression that consisted of 5 lessons aimed at providing psychoeducation and coping techniques for managing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Results: Contrary to prediction, little evidence of using online MI to further improve iCBT outcomes for anxiety and depression was found in the study. Engagement in iCBT was high across groups, with clients completing the same number of lessons and logging into the program a comparable number of times. Clients in both groups also reported high levels of motivation both prior to and following the MI period. Similarly, across groups, clients reported large reductions in anxiety and depression from pre- to post-treatment. During the 6-month follow-up, cliens in the iCBT only group continued to report small reductions in symptoms of anxiety, whereas clients in the MI plus iCBT group did not continue making improvements. The addition of MI to iCBT was also associated with minor increases in symptoms of depression during follow-up, wheras symptom improvements were maintained for clients in the iCBT only group.
Conclusions: Results from this study suggest that online MI may not enhance client outcomes when motivation at pre-treatment is high. In some instances, online MI may also prevent further treatment progress, especially among individuals with high motivation to engage in treatment. Moving forward, it will be important to determine if specific client populations benefit more from online MI.
Although cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a helpful intervention for health anxiety, many individuals are unable to receive this treatment because of difficulties accessing it. Internet-delivered cognitive behaviour therapy (ICBT) is a new and accessible treatment that has been shown to successfully manage symptoms of health anxiety; however, it remains unclear whether ICBT would be used if in fact offered to individuals with health anxiety. The goal of this study was to see how patients perceive ICBT compared to other existing treatments for health anxiety. Primary care patients who were experiencing symptoms of health anxiety were presented with descriptions of three different treatments for health anxiety. The treatments were medication, CBT, and ICBT. Perceptions of the treatments were assessed following the presentation of each treatment description. Participants were also asked to rank the three treatments based on the likelihood wanting to receive that intervention for health anxiety. Results indicated that all three treatments were similarly rated as moderately acceptable. The highest preference ranks were for CBT and medication. That said, a small sample of participants ranked ICBT as the preferred intervention. While CBT and medication were the preferred treatments for health anxiety, the generally favourable perceptions of ICBT found in the study suggest that it would likely be considered a desirable treatment option by a number of potential users.