Home > Digital interventions to enhance readiness for psychological therapy: scoping review.

Jardine, Jacinta and Bowman, Robert and Doherty, Gavin (2022) Digital interventions to enhance readiness for psychological therapy: scoping review. Journal of medical Internet research, 24, (8), e37851. doi: 10.2196/37851.

External website: https://www.jmir.org/2022/8/e37851/

BACKGROUND: Psychological therapy is an effective treatment method for mental illness; however, many people with mental illness do not seek treatment or drop out of treatment early. Increasing client uptake and engagement in therapy is key to addressing the escalating global problem of mental illness. Attitudinal barriers, such as a lack of motivation, are a leading cause of low engagement in therapy. Digital interventions to increase motivation and readiness for change hold promise as accessible and scalable solutions; however, little is known about the range of interventions being used and their feasibility as a means to increase engagement with therapy.

OBJECTIVE: This review aimed to define the emerging field of digital interventions to enhance readiness for psychological therapy and detect gaps in the literature.

METHODS: A literature search was conducted in PubMed, PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, Scopus, Embase, ACM Guide to Computing Literature, and IEEE Xplore Digital Library from January 1, 2006, to November 30, 2021. The PRISMA-ScR (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews) methodology was applied. Publications were included when they concerned a digitally delivered intervention, a specific target of which was enhancing engagement with further psychological treatment, and when this intervention occurred before the target psychological treatment.

RESULTS: A total of 45 publications met the inclusion criteria. The conditions included depression, unspecified general mental health, comorbid anxiety and depression, smoking, eating disorders, suicide, social anxiety, substance use, gambling, and psychosis. Almost half of the interventions (22/48, 46%) were web-based programs; the other formats included screening tools, videos, apps, and websites. The components of the interventions included psychoeducation, symptom assessment and feedback, information on treatment options and referrals, client testimonials, expectation management, and pro-con lists. Regarding feasibility, of the 16 controlled studies, 7 (44%) measuring actual behavior or action showed evidence of intervention effectiveness compared with controls, 7 (44%) found no differences, and 2 (12%) indicated worse behavioral outcomes. In general, the outcomes were mixed and inconclusive owing to variations in trial designs, control types, and outcome measures.

CONCLUSIONS: Digital interventions to enhance readiness for psychological therapy are broad and varied. Although these easily accessible digital approaches show potential as a means of preparing people for therapy, they are not without risks. The complex nature of stigma, motivation, and individual emotional responses toward engaging in treatment for mental health difficulties suggests that a careful approach is needed when developing and evaluating digital readiness interventions. Further qualitative, naturalistic, and longitudinal research is needed to deepen our knowledge in this area.

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