Digital mental health interventions (DMHIs) are effective in treating and preventing common mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety. However, low levels of engagement with these programs are common. To date, research on engagement with DMHIs has mostly operationalised engagement using behavioural indicators of program adherence or usage data. What remains overlooked is the extent to which users acquire and use psychotherapeutic skills from DMHIs in their daily lives.
To address this gap, the current research will investigate skills use in DMHIs, with a focus on predictors and outcomes of skills use. Five studies are planned. Study 1 is a systematic review of the literature on knowledge acquisition and skills use in DMHIs for depression and anxiety. Studies 2 and 3 will involve secondary analysis of data from two randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of internet-based interventions in secondary school students to examine factors that are associated with skills use. Studies 4 and 5 will involve primary data collection and analysis from an RCT and a pre-post test study to investigate the impact of skills use on mental health outcomes. The research is expected to generate findings that can inform the development and adaptation of DMHIs to improve engagement and effectiveness.
Hayley is a PhD Candidate at the Australian National University’s Research School of Population Health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours in Psychology from the University of Western Australia. Hayley has worked across a range of research projects in psychology and public health, including research focused on improving access to intervention and prevention programs for mental health problems and addressing the needs of children affected by chronic parental illness or disability. Her doctoral research is investigating engagement with digital mental health programs, with a particular focus on the acquisition and use of psychotherapeutic skills. Hayley’s work is supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship.