Online stress management courses open for business

Offering high quality psychological help online just makes sense, according to Professor Nick Titov and beyondblue. Part of the reason is it empowers people to help themselves.

Above: Associate Professor Nick Titov, director of the eCentreClinic at Macquarie University.

By Stephen Easton

Older people can apply now to take part in Australia’s first online courses designed specifically to help people aged 60 years and over with stress, anxiety and depression, in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

The two eight-week courses, Managing your Mood and Managing Stress and Anxiety, were developed jointly by Macquarie University’s eCentreClinic and beyondblue: the national depression initiative. According to the director of the eCentreClinic, Associate Professor Nick Titov, taking part is a very straightforward process.

“People will join the course, log in three times a week and get access to different materials and online lessons, which they’ll work though over the eight weeks,” Professor Titov said. “They’ll also receive contact on a weekly basis from one of our psychologists and download additional homework assignments, to practice the skills which they learn in our courses.”

Applications are open now for the two trial courses, which start at the end of September, and have the capacity to help around 200 older Australians. The project will expand further in the near future, to include at least three times as many participants, before the courses become freely available to the public by mid-next year.

Despite the fact that such mental health problems are very common, accessing face-to-face treatment can be difficult for many people, especially older people, in part because seeking mental health treatment can be daunting. 

A national survey in 2007 found that only 35 per cent of people with anxiety or depression sought treatment over a 12-month period, and Professor Titov said the figure was significantly lower for older people, at about 20 per cent.

The Macquarie University professor said there were lots of good reasons for running the courses online, including their greater accessibility and greater cost-effectiveness compared with face-to-face treatment, which requires therapists to spend three to four times as long with each patient. 

Previous trials and surveys conducted by the eCentreClinic had also shown that the online delivery was very acceptable to potential participants, including older people, he said. Internet use is on the increase among older Australians faster than any other age group.

“We’ve actually run two smaller trials with older adults, which we’re writing up now for publication, and the results were very encouraging. That’s why we’ve gone onto these larger clinical trials.

“A big part of it is we’re trying to empower people and provide practical skills that help them to help themselves. [Online courses] are more accessible, they’re cost effective, acceptable to patients and we get a lot of really positive feedback from people. It’s one of the things about mental health that’s going really well.”

Applications for the courses are open now; click here for details. 

The online delivery of mental health treatment also has the support of the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, who announced Australia’s first e-mental health strategy this week.

A committee of mental health experts has been set up to advise on the rollout of a mental health online portal and virtual clinic. 

A spokesperson from the minister’s office said the portal would essentially be a trustworthy online directory to help people searching online for mental health services navigate the thousands of different websites that could arise in the results of a normal search engine.

The exact operation of the virtual clinic is to be determined by the new committee, however it is likely to connect web users to specific services based on their particular needs, and in future could include online video-counselling services, according to the minister’s office.

Tags: anxiety, depression, e-health, macquarie-university, mark-butler, mental-health,

3 thoughts on “Online stress management courses open for business

  1. This sounds like a really wonderful way to help people access the assistance they need more easily.
    I have written a website called http://www.Gentle-Stress-Relief.com
    I recently added a new page on online counseling because it is a way more people can get professional help.
    Is your program limited to people form Australia or
    will it also be available to people in other locations?

  2. Dear Gail

    Thank you for your question.

    Until mid 2012, and while we are carefully testing and improving these courses, they will only be available to people living in Australia. However, with support from beyondblue from Australia, we aim to make these courses freely and universally available from mid 2012.

  3. Great idea. Look forward to hearing more about this project. I work for a senior citizen’s organisation in Belfast N.Ireland. We’ve noticed that older people are reluctant to be seen attending counselling services at community venues. This approach could get around that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *