Randomised control trial of a low-intensity cognitive-behaviour therapy intervention to improve mental health in university students

Stallman, Helen M., Kavanagh, David J., Arklay, Anthony R., & Bennett-Levy, James (2016) Randomised control trial of a low-intensity cognitive-behaviour therapy intervention to improve mental health in university students. Australian Psychologist, 51(2), pp. 145-153.

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  • University students have high rates of clinical and subclinical depression and anxiety symptoms, low rates of face-to-face help-seeking, and high rates of Internet use. Low-intensity cognitive-behaviour therapy (LI-CBT) that incorporates e-resources has potential for increasing access to help by distressed students.


  • This article reports the first randomised controlled trial of LI-CBT in a university context, comparing it with self-help information only.


  • Only 11% of distressed students agreed to participate in treatment, and only 58% of LI-CBT participants attended any sessions. Almost all of the 107 participants were female, with an average age of 23 and high average distress. Intention-to-treat analyses using mixed models regressions showed that LI-CBT participants had greater reductions in depression and anxiety than controls who received self-help information only, but only over the first 2 months. Correction for baseline levels eliminated these effects, although differential improvements for anxiety and stress were seen if analyses were restricted to LI-CBT participants who attended sessions. LI-CBT also resulted in differential reductions in perceived connection to the university perhaps because of greater usage of staff resources by controls.


  • Results provide some support for a potential role for LI-CBT within universities, but suggest that marketing and engagement strategies may need refinement to maximise its uptake and impact.

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ID Code: 95134
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: anxiety, CBT, connectedness, depression, low intensity, university students, HERN
DOI: 10.1111/ap.12113
ISSN: 1742-9544
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Health Clinical and Counselling Psychology (170106)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Deposited On: 18 May 2016 23:17
Last Modified: 22 May 2016 23:41

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