BACKGROUND: Low-intensity treatments imply reduced therapist contact due to an emphasis on self-help and the use of technologies to deliver treatment. The role of the remoteness, the reduced therapist contact, and the interplay of these components has not been differentiated from a patients' perspective so far. This study's purpose is to capture patients' experiences with telephone-based self-help cognitive behavioural therapy (tel-CBT).
METHODS: A subsample of mildly to moderately depressed patients (N = 13) who finished tel-CBT as part of a larger randomised controlled trial (RCT) in routine care were interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and independently coded by two coders blind to treatment outcome. Using qualitative content analysis with deductive and inductive procedures, a two-level category system was established.
RESULTS: The category system contains four category clusters regarding expectations, self-help related aspects, telephone-related aspects, and implications for patients' treatment pathway, and subsumes a total of 15 categories. Self-help related aspects circulate around the interplay between written materials and professional input, trust and support in the therapeutic relationship and its relation to the initial personal contact, as well as CBT principles. Telephone-related aspects entail perceived advantages and disadvantages of the telephone on an organisational and content level as well as a discourse around distance and closeness in the interaction. Although patients raised doubts regarding the long-term effect of the intervention on symptomatology, patients expressed satisfaction with the treatment and reported an immediate as well as a longer lasting personal impact of the treatment. These results indicate user acceptance with tel-CBT.
CONCLUSIONS: This qualitative analysis captures patients' experiences with tel-CBT and the perceived helpfulness of the diverse treatment components. This can facilitate refining aspects of low-intensity treatments and might improve dissemination.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02667366. Registered on 3 December 2015.