A therapist-guided internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy program for Hong Kong university students with psychological distress: A study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Jia-Yan Pan*, Per Carlbring, Lucy Lu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background:
University students are at high risk of various mental health problems due to high levels of psychological distress. However, university counseling services are often inadequate to meet their mental health needs due to shortage of mental health professionals, especially in Hong Kong. Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) has shown similar effects as those of face-to-face CBT in addressing these mental health concerns, but few iCBT programs have been developed for Hong Kong university students.

Objective:
This study protocol aims to develop and evaluate a culturally and linguistically appropriate iCBT program called “REST Online” to reduce the psychological distress and improve the mental health of Chinese university students in Hong Kong in a randomized controlled trial (RCT).

Method:
The contents and functionality of the “REST Online” program which includes both web- and app-based versions, are described. A blended mode of service delivery is adopted, with 8 online modules and 2 counseling sessions. Therapist support will be provided by a CBT therapist. A total of 338 Chinese university students with mild to moderate levels of psychological distress will be openly recruited and randomized to three groups: the (1) web-based and (2) app-based “REST Online” groups, and (3) waitlist control group. The program effectiveness is evaluated in psychological distress, depression and anxiety symptoms, and positive and negative emotions and positive and negative thoughts at pre-, post- and 3-month follow-up tests. Linear mixed effect models will be conducted for data analysis.

Discussion:
The “REST Online” program is among the first of its kind to address the mental health needs of Hong Kong university students by an internet intervention. Theoretically, this study will provide some empirical evidence for the effectiveness of this iCBT program in the Hong Kong context for Chinese clients. Practically, if proven effective, this program can be provided to local university counselors as an option for service delivery. Strengths and limitations are also discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100600
Number of pages7
JournalInternet Interventions
Volume31
Early online date31 Dec 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Health Informatics

User-Defined Keywords

  • Mental health
  • Internet intervention
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Chinese students
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Study protocol

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