A RCT of a transdiagnostic internet-delivered treatment for three anxiety disorders

Examination of support roles and disorder-specific outcomes

Luke Johnston*, Nickolai Titov, Gavin Andrews, Jay Spence, Blake F. Dear

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    76 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Anxiety disorders share common vulnerabilities and symptoms. Disorder-specific treatment is efficacious, but few access evidence-based care. Administering transdiagnostic cognitive-behavioral therapy via the internet (iCBT) may increase access to evidence-based treatment, with a recent randomized controlled trial (RCT) providing preliminary support for this approach. This study extends those findings and aims to answer three questions: Is a transdiagnostic iCBT program for anxiety disorders efficacious and acceptable? Does it result in change for specific disorders? Can good clinical outcomes be obtained when guidance is provided via a Coach rather than a Clinician? Method: RCT (N = 131) comparing three groups: Clinician-supported (CL) vs. Coach-supported (CO) vs. waitlist control (Control). Individuals met DSM-IV criteria for a principal diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social phobia (SP) or panic disorder with or without agoraphobia (Pan/Ag). Treatment consisted of an 8-lesson/10 week iCBT program with weekly contact from a Clinician or Coach, and follow-up at 3-months post-treatment. Results: Outcomes for the pooled treatment groups (CL+CO) were superior to the Control group on measures of anxiety, depression and disability, were associated with medium to large effect sizes (Cohen's d =. 76 - 1.44) (response rate = 89-100%), and were maintained at follow-up. Significant reductions were found on disorder-specific outcomes for each of the target diagnoses, and were associated with large effect sizes. CO participants achieved similar outcomes to CL participants at post-treatment, yet had significantly lower symptom severity scores on general anxiety, panic-disorder, depression and disability at follow-up (d =. 45 -. 46). Seventy-four percent of CO and 76% of CL participants completed the program. Less than 70 minutes of Clinician or Coach time was required per participant during the program. Discussion: This transdiagnostic iCBT course for anxiety appears to be efficacious, associated with significant change for three target disorders, and is efficacious when guided by either a Clinician or Coach. Trial Registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610000242022.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere28079
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    Number of pages13
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011

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