Time for a Change: College Students' Preference for In-Person versus Technology Mediated Help for Emotional Distress
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Background: Even with recent advances in psychological treatment and internet technology, online computerized therapy is not popular. The college population with almost universal access to both computers and the internet and a high rate of psychological distress could be an important area for the dissemination of evidence-based online computerized therapy. Introduction: This survey evaluated the current trends among college students in terms of help seeking behaviors, availability of technological devices, and willingness to share personal information online. Materials and Methods: An online survey was distributed to 572 university students to assess a variety of issues pertaining to means and willingness to seek treatment. This survey included ownership/plans for ownership of technological devices, likelihood of seeking face-to-face or online help from a variety of devices, willingness to disclose information online compared to face-to-face, and interest in playing computer games designed to work as psychotherapy. In addition, the Mental Health Inventory was included as an index of mental health. Results: Over 98% of participants reported ownership of mobile technology. No relationship between severity of mental health problems and avenue of help seeking was found. Asian Americans were more likely to be non-treatment seekers and were less likely to seek face-to-face only help relative to other ethnicities. In terms of information disclosure 35.7% of participants were more likely to disclose equal or more information online compared to face-to-face treatment. The majority of participants indicated high interest for playing serious games for emotional distress. Implications for avenues for technological mental health dissemination are discussed. Discussion/Conclusion: Our results suggest that college students on average perceive online modalities of emotional help seeking to be just as potentially beneficial as more traditional, face-to-face professional help settings suggesting a need for EBTs to be adapted into online interventions. Furthermore, college students seem to be opened to creative ways of receiving help for emotional problems, with most of them being willing to even try games designed to help them handle emotional distress.
- Psychology