Portuguese psychologists' attitudes toward internet interventions: exploratory cross-sectional study

Cristina Mendes-Santos, Elisabete Weiderpass, Rui Santana, Gerhard Andersson

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Despite the significant body of evidence on the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of internet interventions, the implementation of such programs in Portugal is virtually non-existent. In addition, Portuguese psychologists' use and their attitudes towards such interventions is largely unknown.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to explore Portuguese psychologists' knowledge, training, use and attitudes towards internet interventions; to investigate perceived advantages and limitations of such interventions; identify potential drivers and barriers impacting implementation; and study potential factors associated to previous use and attitudes towards internet interventions.

METHODS: An online cross-sectional survey was developed by the authors and disseminated by the Portuguese Psychologists Association to its members.

RESULTS: A total of 1077 members of the Portuguese Psychologists Association responded to the questionnaire between November 2018 and February 2019. Of these, 37.2% (N=363) were familiar with internet interventions and 19.2% (N=188) considered having the necessary training to work within the field. 29.6% (N=319) of participants reported to have used some form of digital technology to deliver care in the past. Telephone (23.8%; N=256), e-mail (16.2%; N=175) and SMS (16.1%; N=173) services were among the most adopted forms of digital technology, while guided (1.3%; N=14) and unguided (1.5%; N=16) internet interventions were rarely used. Accessibility (79.9%; N=860), convenience (45.7%; N=492) and cost-effectiveness (45.5%; N=490) were considered the most important advantages of internet interventions. Conversely, ethical concerns (40.7%; N=438), client's ICT illiteracy (43.2%; N=465) and negative attitudes towards internet interventions (37%; N=398) were identified as the main limitations. An assessment of participants attitudes towards internet interventions revealed a slightly negative/neutral stance (Median=46.21; SD=15.06) and revealed greater acceptability towards blended treatment interventions (62.9%; N=615) when compared to standalone internet interventions (18.6%; N=181). Significant associations were found between knowledge (χ24=90.4; P<.001), training (χ24=94.6; P<.001), attitudes (χ23=38.4; P<.001) and previous use of internet interventions and between knowledge (χ212=109.7; P<.001), training (χ212=64.7; P<.001) and attitudes towards such interventions, with psychologists reporting to be ignorant and not having adequate training in the field, being more likely to present more negative attitudes towards these interventions and not having prior experience in its implementation.

CONCLUSIONS: This study revealed that most Portuguese psychologists are not familiar with and have no training or prior experience using internet interventions and had a slightly negative/neutral attitude towards such interventions. There was greater acceptability towards blended treatment interventions compared to standalone internet interventions. Lack of knowledge and training were identified as the main barriers to overcome, underlining the need of promoting awareness and training initiatives to ensure internet interventions successful implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e16817
JournalJMIR mental health
Volume7
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Apr 2020

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