Acceptability of Computerized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adults: Umbrella Review

Charlene J Treanor, Anne Kouvonen, Tea Lallukka, Michael Donnelly*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Background: Mental ill-health presents a major public health problem. A potential part solution that is receiving increasing attention is computer-delivered psychological therapy, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic as health care systems moved to remote service delivery. However, computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (cCBT) requires active engagement by service users, and low adherence may minimize treatment effectiveness. Therefore, it is important to investigate the acceptability of cCBT to understand implementation issues and maximize potential benefits.

Objective: This study aimed to produce a critical appraisal of published reviews about the acceptability of cCBT for adults.

Methods: An umbrella review informed by the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) methodology identified systematic reviews about the acceptability of cCBT for common adult mental disorders. Acceptability was operationalized in terms of uptake of, dropping out from, or completion of cCBT treatment; factors that facilitated or impeded adherence; and reports about user, carer, and healthcare professional experience and satisfaction with cCBT. Databases were searched using search terms informed by relevant published research. Review selection and quality appraisal were guided by the JBI methodology and the AMSTAR tool and undertaken independently by 2 reviewers.

Results: The systematic searches of databases identified 234 titles, and 9 reviews (covering 151 unique studies) met the criteria. Most studies were comprised of service users with depression, anxiety, or specifically, panic disorder or phobia. Operationalization of acceptability varied across reviews, thereby making it difficult to synthesize results. There was a similar number of guided and unguided cCBT programs; 34% of guided and 36% of unguided users dropped out; and guidance included email, telephone, face-to-face, and discussion forum support. Guided cCBT was completed in full by 8%-74% of the participants, while 94%completed one module and 67%-84% completed some modules. Unguided cCBT was completed in full by 16%-66% of participants, while 95% completed one module and 54%-93% completed some modules. Guided cCBT appeared to be associated with adherence(sustained via telephone). A preference for face-to-face CBT compared to cCBT (particularly for users who reported feeling isolated), internet or computerized delivery problems, negative perceptions about cCBT, low motivation, too busy or not having enough time, and personal circumstances were stated as reasons for dropping out. Yet, some users favored the anonymous nature of cCBT, and the capacity to undertake cCBT in one’s own time was deemed beneficial but also led to avoidance of cCBT. There was inconclusive evidence for an association between sociodemographic variables, mental health status, and cCBT adherence or dropping out. Users tended to be satisfied with cCBT, reported improvements in mental health, and recommended cCBT. Overall, the results indicated that service users’ preferences were important considerations regarding the use of cCBT.

Conclusions: The review indicated that “one size did not fit all” regarding the acceptability of cCBT and that individual tailoring of cCBT is required in order to increase population reach, uptake, and adherence and therefore, deliver treatment benefits and improve mental health.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23091
JournalJMIR Mental Health
Volume8
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 06 Jul 2021

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