The acceptability of a therapist-assisted internet-delivered cognitive behaviour therapy program for the treatment of anxiety disorders in adolescents: a qualitative study

Katy Smart, Lydia Smith, Kate Harvey, Polly Waite

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Computerized treatments have been shown to be effective in young people with anxiety disorders. However, there has been limited investigation into the experiences of adolescents in undertaking this treatment. This qualitative study explored adolescents’ experiences of being treated for an anxiety disorder, using an online intervention with therapist support, as part of a randomised controlled trial. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with thirteen adolescents aged between 13 and 17 years, who had received the online intervention. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Two cross-cutting themes were identified: (i) Usability of the program, and (ii) Putting techniques into practice. Although the convenience of online sessions was recognised as positive, many of the adolescents expressed a preference for face-to-face sessions. The length of sessions and the large amount of reading involved was highlighted by most participants. The transdiagnostic nature of the content meant some elements of the programme were seen as less relevant. While many participants appreciated the ‘fun’ aspect of the program, others felt that certain aspects of the program were not suitable for their age group. Exposure, psychoeducation and cognitive restructuring were generally received positively, whereas responses to the use of relaxation and rewards were much more mixed. Our findings highlight the potential utility for online treatments delivered with therapist support. However, they also highlight how issues with both the format and treatment components can impact the acceptability of a program. As such, further work is warranted to improve the acceptability of online treatments for adolescents with anxiety disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-673
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Early online date8 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

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PW was supported by a Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Research Training Fellowship (G1002011) for this research and is currently supported by an NIHR Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (PDF-2016-09-092). The study was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network.


  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Online
  • Internet
  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Qualitative


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