A professor in the department of Psychology at the University of Regina has received $400,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to train mental health practitioners to use the internet with their clients. As well, the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation is providing $100,000 for the research, which is for a three-year period.
The funding will go to a team led by Dr. Heather Hadjistavropoulos and will be used to look at developing a website for mental health care therapists, so that more services can be delivered to their patients over the internet.
"People are interested in more efficient ways to get services, and more is being offered over the internet all the time," says Hadjistavropoulos. "This is especially significant for people in rural and remote areas. And it also improves access for people who are uncomfortable seeking services and who have limited time to attend appointments."
The funding for the research project will mean 10 students in computer science and psychology will be hired to develop the website in the first year. As well, students will be hired to train therapists to use it. Later, research will be done to study the outcomes of the project. The U of R is partnering with five health regions in southern Saskatchewan for the project: Cypress, Five Hills, Regina Qu'Appelle, Sun Country and Sunrise.
Hadjistavropoulos says research shows that Internet Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for depression and anxiety can be effectively provided. This involves patients reviewing several sessions of psychoeducation over the internet followed by contact with a therapist who provides support and directs therapeutic activities via email. However, there is currently a gap between the research evidence and actual practice, and this research project is designed to explore how to assist practitioners in using Internet Cognitive Behaviour Therapy in their work.
"This research has considerable potential to significantly influence how Internet Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is organized, managed and delivered not only in Saskatchewan, but in other areas of Canada. This project has the potential to have a very big impact on the mental health care system," says Hadjistavropoulos.
The training is expected to begin this fall. U of R researchers will be collaborating with international experts to adapt existing Internet Cognitive Behavior Therapy programs for depression and anxiety for use in Saskatchewan. Then they will make these programs available to practitioners and train providers and students on how to use Internet Cognitive Behavior Therapy and gain practical experience in treating patients.
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