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Research Summaries

Perceptions of ICBT in public safety personnel

Keywords: Internet-Delivered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (ICBT), Mental Health, Mental Health Disorders, PSPNET, Stigma, Treatment

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Why was the study done?

Public safety personnel (PSP) struggle with higher rates of mental health disorders than the general population. Internet-delivered Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (ICBT) is an alternative form of CBT treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective in treating several conditions, including depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

ICBT can also help address common treatment barriers like travel to appointments, privacy, and difficulty in scheduling appointments. However, people still express that they would prefer face-to-face therapy, even though ICBT is effective.

The goals of the current study are:

  1. To determine how PSP view ICBT after viewing educational materials;
  2. To determine if PSP who learn about ICBT through a poster and a personal story perceive ICBT more favourably than those viewing a poster alone;
  3. To determine how PSP prefer ICBT delivery, in terms of therapist support and guidance; and,
  4. And to inquire if demographic and clinical characteristics predict PSP perceptions of ICBT.

What was done in the study?

Participants were recruited by email from various PSP organizations in Saskatchewan. One hundred and thirty-two participants completed the survey, which included questionnaires on depression, anxiety, PTSD, treatment acceptability and adherence, general health-seeking, credibility and expectations, ICBT treatment support, treatment preference, and e-therapy assessment. There were also open-ended questions about the participants’ likes and dislikes of ICBT treatment.

Participants were divided into two groups. All participants completed the questionnaires, but the first group viewed only a poster on ICBT while the second group saw a poster and read a personal story of an ICBT user. The participants were equally split between male and female, rural and urban. The majority of participants were married, had a post-secondary degree, identified as white, and had worked for ten or more years.

What did we find out?

  1. The majority of participants had clinically significant scores on the measures of depression, anxiety, and PTSD;
  2. No differences existed between those who had read just the poster and those who had read both the poster and the story;
  3. The top three preferred methods of treatment were psychologist, ICBT with therapist support, and counsellor;
  4. Clinical and demographic factors did not predict participants’ expected outcomes of ICBT, but they predicted how PSP viewed the treatment’s credibility;
  5. Female participants viewed ICBT as more credible than their male counterparts;
  6. Clinical and demographic variables predicted the acceptability of, and likely adherence to do, the ICBT program;
  7. Those with more years of experience viewed the ICBT program as less acceptable and were less likely to consider adhering to the program;
  8. The majority of participants expressed a preference to have regular contact via email with a therapist during ICBT. They stated it could be therapist or client-initiated;
  9. The most-liked aspect of ICBT was accessibility; the most-disliked aspect was the lack of face-to-face contact with a therapist;
  10. There were no differences in views by PSP sector; and,
  11. Most questions concerning the ICBT program were around logistical issues (e.g., how long is the program? how many hours to complete it?).

Where do we go from here?

While this study featured a small sample from one province, there were several valuable insights. PSP ranked therapist-guided ICBT as the second-most preferred treatment, which is in contrast to what is seen in the general population. This positive view of ICBT suggests that PSP would be ready to engage in ICBT. Based on the feedback in open-ended questions, education materials should be clear about how ICBT will be delivered so that logistical questions are answered upfront. While most participants wanted contact with a therapist throughout ICBT, the frequency and type of contact desired were varied, so options for communication should be part of the program.


The original wording of the study was changed and condensed for the current research summary.

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Original study

McCall, H. C., Sison, A.P., Burnett, J.L., Beahm, J.D. & Hadjistavropoulos, H. (2020). Exploring perceptions of internet-delivered cognitive behaviour therapy among public safety personnel: Informing dissemination efforts. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17,6026 .

Prepared by Kossick, E. Reviewed & edited by B. Barootes and H. Hadjistavropoulos
Updated (2024) by K. Harris

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