Internet-Delivered Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Public Safety Personnel

2019-10-21 12:45:36 | BioPortfolio


This study evaluates a transdiagnostic Internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy (ICBT) recently tailored for Canadian public safety personnel (PSP) reporting symptoms of depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress. Outcomes of interest include engagement with the intervention, changes in symptoms and functioning, and strengths and limitations of implementing ICBT with Canadian PSP.



Public Safety Personnel (PSP) is a term that broadly encompasses personnel who ensure the safety and security of Canadians across jurisdictions, including, but not necessarily limited to, public safety communications officials (e.g., call centre operators/dispatchers), correctional employees, firefighters, paramedics, border services personnel, operational and intelligence personnel, search and rescue personnel, and police officers. As a function of their vocations, PSP are frequently exposed to traumatic events (e.g., threatened or actual physical assaults, sexual violence, fires, and explosions) and are at risk of post-traumatic stress injuries. Results from a recent survey with a large Canadian PSP sample showed 44.5% screened positive for one or more mental health disorders, which is much higher than the 10.1% diagnostic rate among the Canadian general public. For many Canadian PSP access to in-person evidence-based care is impeded for several reasons, including preference to self-manage symptoms, geographic barriers (e.g., difficulty accessing care while deployed to remote locations), logistical barriers (e.g., shift work limits access to standard service hours), stigma (e.g., perceptions of being evaluated negatively for having mental health concerns), growing waiting-lists, and limited resources (e.g., insufficient access to mental health care coverage).

Transdiagnostic Internet-delivered cognitive behaviour therapy (ICBT) represents a convenient method for PSP to access care for mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. In transdiagnostic ICBT, clients receive access to standardized lessons that provide the same information and skills as traditional face-to-face CBT. Divergent mental health symptoms are targeted within transdiagnostic ICBT by educating clients in strategies that apply to multiple conditions (e.g., cognitive restructuring, graded exposure); this helps to ensure multiple concerns are addressed in an efficient manner. This is important given high rates of mental health comorbidity. In addition to weekly lessons, clients are encouraged to complete homework assignments to facilitate learning. Research shows that transdiagnostic ICBT is effective at reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression and trauma and there is also evidence that the findings of research trials translate into routine clinic settings. Most commonly, ICBT is delivered with brief once weekly e-therapist assistance (~20 minutes) via the telephone or secure email over ~8 weeks. There are also encouraging research results that clients can benefit with lower levels of support, such as when treatment is largely self-directed but with automated reminder emails, e-therapist monitoring and optional e-therapist support as needed by clients.

Research purpose:

The purpose of the current research project is to explore outcomes of a transdiagnostic ICBT course that is specifically tailored for PSP (e.g., case examples are relevant to PSP), referred to as the PSP Wellbeing Course. Of particular interest in this study are: 1) the usage of the PSP Wellbeing Course among PSP from Saskatchewan or Quebec who are informed about the PSP Wellbeing Course (e.g., # enrolling, completion rates, use of e-therapist support); 2) outcomes of the PSP Wellbeing Course with respect to diverse outcome measures (e.g., depression, anxiety, trauma, disability) measured at 8 , 16, 36 and 52 week follow-up; and 3) strengths and challenges of the PSP Wellbeing Course when offered to PSP in Saskatchewan and Quebec. In order to take part, PSP will first complete an online questionnaire and telephone screening to assess whether they meet the following inclusion criteria: 1) 18 years of age or older; 2) Saskatchewan or Quebec resident; 3) endorsing symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, but not high suicide risk or recent suicide attempts in the past year; 4) able to access and comfortable using computers and the internet; 5) not seeking help primarily for alcohol and or drugs, bipolar disorder, or psychotic symptoms; and 6) willing to provide an emergency contact. The PSP Wellbeing Course will be delivered by trained providers with graduate training in psychology or social work or graduate students under supervision. Of note, the program will first be offered in Saskatchewan, and when this is underway, materials will be translated to French and the program will be offered to PSP who reside in Quebec as well. The primary research questions to be answered include:

1. ENGAGEMENT: How many PSP will enroll in and complete the PSP Wellbeing Course? What will be the uptake of optional e-therapist support, versus 1x week or 2x week e-therapist support? What will be the length of support selected (8 week-16 week)?

2. OUTCOMES: What will be the impact of the PSP Wellbeing Course on symptom improvement and functioning at 8, 16, 36, and 52 weeks post-enrollment? What factors will predict outcomes (e.g., symptom severity, demographics, engagement)?

3. IMPLEMENTATION: What are stakeholder experiences, positive and negative, with the PSP Wellbeing Course? What are the suggested improvements to ICBT to meet the needs of PSP?


This project will provide information that will inform future use of ICBT to assist PSP with common mental health concerns. Data will be extracted and analyzed on a quarterly basis in order to provide a preliminary evaluation of engagement, outcomes and implementation experiences and determine if adjustments to ICBT are required. Once adjustments are completed or deemed unnecessary, data will be extracted and analyzed biannually.

Study Design


Depression, Anxiety


PSP Wellbeing Course


Department of Psychology and Collaborative Centre for Justice and Safety
S4S 0A2


Not yet recruiting


University of Regina

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2019-10-21T12:45:36-0400

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