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Background: Anxiety and depression are prevalent mental health concerns experienced by post-secondary students. Rates of help-seeking are often low in this population, and students face several barriers to accessing psychological treatment. Internet-delivered cognitive behaviour therapy (ICBT) is an effective alternative to face-to-face therapy that addresses these barriers in adult populations with some evidence showing ICBT can also be effective with students. Additional research is necessary to identify students perceptions of and preferences for ICBT to assist with future implementation efforts in student populations.
Methods: 314 Canadian post-secondary students completed an online survey and completed questionnaires about their symptoms of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use, and medical service utilization over the last 12 months. Students rated the acceptability and credibility of three treatment options (ICBT, face-to-face therapy, and medication) for the treatment of anxiety and depression. They also rated the utility of different kinds of content to be included in an ICBT course.
Results: The three treatment options were rated as moderately acceptable and credible. Students expressed a preference for face-to-face services (44.6%), followed by medication (31.9%), and finally ICBT (23.5%). ICBT became more preferable once students would have to wait to receive face-to-face therapy. Students who were female and had less severe symptoms of depression had more positive perceptions of the use of ICBT in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
Conclusions: While many students expressed a preference for face-to-face therapy or medication over ICBT, a substantial number preferred ICBT. Students often have to wait to receive face-to-face therapy, so ICBT may also be more desirable in these circumstances. Implementation trials in student populations are necessary to identify barriers to implementation efforts.