Examining an internet-delivered intervention for anxiety and depression when delivered as a part of routine care for university students: a phase IV trial

Blake F. Dear*, Bareena Johnson, Ashwin Singh, Benjamin Wilkes, Tamara Brkic, Richa Gupta, Michael P. Jones, Steve Bailey, Joanne Dudeney, Milena Gandy, Rhiannon Fogliati, Nickolai Titov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
59 Downloads (Pure)


Background: There has been growing interest in the potential of emerging internet-delivered psychological treatments for supporting the mental health needs of university students. However, no large-scale prospective effectiveness trials examining their real-world potential have been reported. Objective: The aim of the current study was to evaluate the acceptability and effectiveness of a brief, 5-week, internet-delivered and therapist-guided intervention for anxiety and depression, when delivered as part of routine care by a university counselling service. Design: A large, prospective, single-group Phase-IV clinical trial. Students (n = 1326) engaging with the university counselling service were provided the opportunity to receive the intervention based on their preferences and identified needs. Students completed standardised measures of anxiety and depression at pre-treatment, each week of the intervention, post-treatment and 3-month follow-up. Results: Over a 4 year period, 1081 students (10% of those presenting to the counselling service) participated in the intervention. Large clinical reductions in symptoms of both anxiety (% reduction = 41%; Cohen's d = 0.94) and depression (% reduction = 36%; Cohen's d = 0.81) were observed alongside high levels of acceptability. The intervention required relatively little counsellor time (M = 36.28 mins; SD = 20.56) per student, and symptom deterioration was observed in less than 5% of students. Conclusion: The findings of the current study are supportive of internet-delivered interventions provided as routine care to university students. Further research is needed to carefully explore whether these interventions could be used with a larger proportion of students presenting to counselling services, paying close attention to acceptability, engagement and clinical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-577
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • depression
  • anxiety
  • young adults
  • university students
  • clinical trial
  • internet
  • online
  • psychological treatment
  • routine care
  • implementation


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