Counseling with guided use of a mobile well-being app for students experiencing anxiety or depression: Clinical outcomes of a feasibility trial embedded in a student counseling service

BROGLIA, E, MILLINGS, Abigail and BARKHAM, M (2019). Counseling with guided use of a mobile well-being app for students experiencing anxiety or depression: Clinical outcomes of a feasibility trial embedded in a student counseling service. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 7 (8), e14318.

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Background: Anxiety and depression continue to be prominent experiences of students approaching their university counseling service. These services face unique challenges to ensure that they continue to offer quality support with fewer resources to a growing student population. The convenience and availability of mobile phone apps offer innovative solutions to address therapeutic challenges and expand the reach of traditional support. Objective: The primary aim of this study was to establish the feasibility of a trial in which guided use of a mobile phone well-being app was introduced into a student counseling service and offered as an adjunct to face-to-face counseling. Methods: The feasibility trial used a two-arm, parallel nonrandomized design comparing counseling alone (treatment as usual) versus counseling supplemented with guided use of a mobile phone well-being app (intervention) for 38 university students experiencing moderate anxiety or depression. Students in both conditions received up to 6 sessions of face-to-face counseling within a 3-month period. Students who approached the counseling service and were accepted for counseling were invited to join the trial. Feasibility factors evaluated include recruitment duration, treatment preference, randomization acceptability, and intervention fidelity. Clinical outcomes and clinical change were assessed with routine clinical outcome measures administered every counseling session and follow-up phases at 3 and 6 months after recruitment. Results: Both groups demonstrated reduced clinical severity by the end of counseling. This was particularly noticeable for depression, social anxiety, and hostility, whereby clients moved from elevated clinical to low clinical or from low clinical to nonclinical by the end of the intervention. By the 6-month follow-up, TAU clients' (n=18) anxiety had increased whereas intervention clients' (n=20) anxiety continued to decrease, and this group difference was significant (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7: t22=3.46, P=.002). This group difference was not replicated for levels of depression: students in both groups continued to decrease their levels of depression by a similar amount at the 6-month follow-up (Physical Health Questionnaire-9: t22=1.30, P=.21). Conclusion: Supplementing face-to-face counseling with guided use of a well-being app is a feasible and acceptable treatment option for university students experiencing moderate anxiety or depression. The feasibility trial was successfully embedded into a university counseling service without denying access to treatment and with minimal disruption to the service. This study provides preliminary evidence for using a well-being app to maintain clinical improvements for anxiety following the completion of counseling. The design of the feasibility trial provides the groundwork for the development of future pilot trials and definitive trials embedded in a student counseling service.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: counseling; students; mental health; mobile app; feasibility studies; outcome measures; depressive symptoms; generalized anxiety; universities; counseling; depressive symptoms; feasibility studies; generalized anxiety; mental health; mobile app; outcome measures; students; universities; Adult; Anxiety; Counseling; Depression; Feasibility Studies; Female; Humans; Male; Mobile Applications; Outcome Assessment, Health Care; Prevalence; Psychometrics; Students; Surveys and Questionnaires; Universities; Humans; Prevalence; Feasibility Studies; Depression; Anxiety; Counseling; Psychometrics; Students; Universities; Adult; Female; Male; Mobile Applications; Surveys and Questionnaires; Outcome Assessment, Health Care; Medical Informatics; 08 Information and Computing Sciences; 11 Medical and Health Sciences; 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Identification Number:
Page Range: e14318
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 12 May 2021 12:34
Last Modified: 12 May 2021 12:34

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