Online computer or therapist-guided cognitive behavioral therapy in university students with anxiety and/or depression: Study protocol of a randomised controlled trial

Anke Klein*, N. E. Wolters, E. J.M. Bol, J. Koelen, L. de Koning, S. S.M. Roetink, J. J. van Blom, T. Pronk, Claudia van der Heijde, Elske Salemink, Felix Bolinski, Heleen Riper, Eirini Karyotaki, Pim Cuijpers, S. Schneider, Ronald M. Rapee, Peter Vonk, Reinout W. Wiers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction Emerging adulthood is a phase in life that is associated with an increased risk to develop a variety of mental health disorders including anxiety and depression. However, less than 25% of university students receive professional help for their mental health reports. Internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT) may entail useful interventions in a format that is attractive for university students. The aim of this study protocol is to test the effectiveness of a therapist-guided versus a computer-guided transdiagnostic iCBT programme with a main focus on anxiety and depression. Methods and analysis University students with anxiety and/or depressive symptoms will be randomised to a (1) 7-week iCBT programme (excluding booster session) with therapist feedback, (2) the identical iCBT programme with computer feedback only or (3) care as usual. Participants in the care as usual condition are informed and referred to conventional care services and encouraged to seek the help they need. Primary outcome variables are self-reported levels of anxiety as measured with the General Anxiety Disorder-7 and self-reported levels of depression as measured with the Patient Health Questionnaire-9. Secondary outcomes include treatment adherence, client satisfaction, medical service use, substance use, quality of life and academic achievement. Assessments will take place at baseline (t1), midtreatment (t2), post-treatment (t3), at 6 months (t4) and 12 months (t5) postbaseline. Social anxiety and perfectionism are included as potentially important predictors of treatment outcome. Power calculations are based on a 3 (group) × 3 (measurement: pretreatment, midtreatment and post-treatment) interaction, resulting in an aimed sample of 276 participants. Data will be analysed based on intention-to-treat and per protocol samples using mixed linear models.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere049554
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2021

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