ICBT for College Students: Meeting Students Where They Are Now More Than Ever

ICBT for College Students: Meeting Students Where They Are Now More Than Ever

Even before the coronavirus moved many aspects of our lives online, counseling centers have been looking for solutions to support an increasing number of students in a variety of different ways.   While many students could benefit from learning skills to manage their emotions, they may not need, want, or have time for weekly counseling with a licensed clinician. For these students, a self-guided Internet-based cognitive behavioral training, or ICBT, can effectively teach them skills to thrive on campus and beyond.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a solutions-oriented intervention that is focused on how thoughts, feelings, and actions are all related to each other, with exercises and skills to support what is learned in each session. ICBTs are accessible on a user’s computer or mobile device, and sessions can be completed on users’ own schedules.

ICBT fits into college students’ busy schedules anytime and is significantly more affordable than a course of counseling with a licensed clinician. When ICBT is an option offered by the counseling center, more counseling slots remain accessible to those students who truly need or prefer in-person counseling.

As counseling centers choose among a number of ICBTs on the market, it is important to remember that while they have many elements in common, they are not all alike.  In choosing a program, keep in mind important distinctions such as if the programs have been developed specifically for college students and if they are backed by evidence of efficacy. 

ICare is the ICBT program offered by Christie Campus Health, either as part of its CONNECT@College platform, or as a standalone program. ICare was developed specifically for college students by the co-directors of the WHO World Mental Health Initiative’s College Mental Health Project. ICare is currently being examined as part of a multinational study sponsored by the World Health Organization; early findings have shown that the training has promise for preventing the onset of diagnosable anxiety and depressive disorders in a cost-effective manner. 

While it is a self-guided program, meaning that students complete it at their own convenience, each student who participates in the program is also assigned a Christie Campus Health Navigator to support their completion of the program. Navigators help students set up the program and communicate with students regularly throughout their use of the ICare program. This is an important benefit of ICare, as research has demonstrated that guided internet-based trainings are associated with higher rates of session completion as compared to unguided.  

The ICare program helps students learn tools for managing what they think, how they feel, and what they do. It includes seven sessions to be completed approximately once weekly, and one additional follow-up session that can be completed about a month later. Each session takes from 30 to 60 minutes and includes personalized in-between session practice exercises. Students can go back to the session content anytime they want for up to a year, so they can go back to reference specific skills or exercises when they want a refresher. They are reminded before, during, and at the end of the training about how they can access other resources such as a licensed clinician at any point during or after ICare.

In addition to the core sessions (outlined below), students can customize their ICare experience by completing one or more optional modules on the following topics: sleep, perfectionism, appreciation and gratitude, relaxation, acceptance, reducing brooding, alcohol and emotion regulation, self-worth, and excessive worrying.

Session 1: Introduction, education about basic needs, self-assessment, setting goals

Session 2: Taking action to overcome obstacles and improve mood

Session 3: Psychoeducation

Session 4: Changing thoughts: learning to identify thoughts and generate alternative thoughts

Session 5: Overcoming challenges: identifying challenges, problem solving, and implementing coping strategies

Session 6: Learning how to implement daily practice

Session 7: Planning for the future and assessment of progress

Session 8: (about a month later): Booster session (several weeks after completion of course 7): review of the training, self-assessment of progress since completion of the course

With the mental health needs on campus becoming even more urgent in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, scalable online trainings are a feasible, acceptable, and cost-effective way to meet more students’ needs. ICare can teach students skills to support a mentally healthy college experience, on their own devices and on their own schedules, giving them what they need when they need it. Contact info@christiecampus.com if you’d like to learn more about how to use ICare on your campus.

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