Insights into internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy for public safety personnel: exploration of client experiences during and after treatment

Janine D. Beahm, Hugh C. McCall, R. Nicholas Carleton, Nick Titov, Blake Dear, Heather D. Hadjistavropoulos*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)
    11 Downloads (Pure)


    Canadian public safety personnel (PSP) experience high rates of mental health problems and barriers to receiving care. Internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy (ICBT) may help reduce barriers to care; however, there is no literature involving qualitative analyses of client feedback to describe PSP experiences with ICBT. Identifying these experiences is important because it can inform future use of ICBT with this group that has unique needs. The current study was designed to explore how clients (N = 82) experienced ICBT that had been tailored to meet their needs; specifically, the study assessed their perceptions of program impacts, what clients found helpful, and client suggestions for improvements. The ICBT course included five core lessons, client stories, and nine initial additional resources, as well as flexible frequencies (optional, once weekly, or twice weekly) and durations (8 to 16 weeks) of therapist support. A qualitative reliability thematic analysis was used to analyze client communications and feedback. Responses to a Treatment Satisfaction Questionnaire administered at eight weeks post-enrollment were available for 57 clients. Client emails with therapists were also examined among all clients, including an additional 25 clients who did not complete the Treatment Satisfaction Questionnaire. Themes identified in the qualitative analyses were related to: reported impacts and hindering events, helpful and challenging course skills and content, helpful aspects of the course, and areas for improvement. Clients who completed the Treatment Satisfaction Questionnaire and those who did not reported beneficial impacts from the program, with the most commonly endorsed themes being skill development and normalizing mental health issues. Hindering events were experienced by both groups and included timeline challenges, technology challenges, and negative effects. Comments from both groups suggested that clients had more success than challenges when practicing the skills. Thought challenging was the skill most frequently identified as helpful. Clients described many aspects of the program as helpful with the most frequently endorsed themes being the course format and content, the flexible nature of the course, access to additional materials and case stories, and therapist assistance. Clients also provided suggestions for improving the course (e.g., case stories, additional resources, timelines audio and videos). Overall, client communications suggest that ICBT is accepted and perceived as beneficial among PSP. These results informed rapid improvements to the ICBT program tailored for PSP and may inform others seeking to provide digital mental health services to PSP.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number100481
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    Number of pages13
    JournalInternet Interventions
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2021. 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.


    • digital mental health
    • qualitative
    • ICBT
    • public safety personnel
    • first responders
    • learning health systems
    • eHealth


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