A Gen-Y Perspective on E-Mental Health

Posted by: Dawn Schell on May 1, 2015 2:21 pm

One might expect that Generation Y, the “digital natives” would be the quickest to embrace e-Mental Health. But what do they really think about the use of technology in counselling?

Two recent studies[1] examined the preferences of youth when it comes to e-Mental Health interventions.

Mar, et. al (2014), looked at “youth consumer preferences for online interventions targeting depression and anxiety”.   Interviews with 23 youth were focused around the question, ‘‘If there was a website available for individuals with mood disorders or anxiety, what would you want it to look like?’’

What did they learn?

Participants preferred professional support to be delivered over online chat, though e-mail was acceptable to some. Participants viewed professionals as a support to access after peers.

Privacy was seen as a serious concern and was linked to stigma around others finding out about their mental health concern.

Participants believed having an online community of others with similar problems could help create feelings that they are not alone and provide opportunities to share stories and artwork.  Interestingly, “although participants wanted support and a human connection, they also valued privacy and anonymity”.

Paradox? Or is this the strength of e-Mental Health that both are possible?

Travers & Benton (2014) examined the question – “Would Internet-delivered treatment be an acceptable form of treatment for college students?” Though the question is worded quite broadly the study was designed to explore the acceptability of a specific form of treatment for anxiety – therapist-assisted internet-delivered CBT (TAI-CBT).

The authors recruited students from both the general college population and those who used counselling services. Students responded to a survey that included questions about treatment modalities they would consider and their preferred mode of communicating with a counsellor if they were engaged in TAI-CBT.

What did they learn?tree-200795_640

Overall, participants expressed a preference for individual face-to-face counselling.

Between 16 – 32% of the students surveyed said they would consider the online option for treatment. Students who were already involved with the counselling centre were more likely to consider TAI-CBT as a viable option as compared to college students in the general population.

Both groups of students expressed a preference for video conferencing over telephone, online chat, or e-mail as a means of communicating with a counsellor.

“The identified advantages of TAI-CBT were: (a) no need to travel to appointments, (b) reduced time involved compared with an office visit, (c) reduced cost relative to an office visit, and (d) avoiding long waits for face-to-face treatment.

The identified disadvantages TAI-CBT were: (a) prefer face-to-face individual therapy, (b) need to see the person I am speaking with, (c) skeptical about whether TAI-CBT would help, (d) don’t know enough about TAI-CBT, (e) believe my condition is too complicated to be handled online, (f) I’m not good at communicating my ideas online or in writing, and (g) online treatment seems like pretend treatment.”

Pretend treatment. Ouch.

Though the youth in these studies don’t represent every youth it looks as if we have work to do in terms of further research into their needs, as well as education, marketing and designing e-Mental Health resources that work for them.


Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online Inc. http://www.therapyonline.ca


[1] Mar, M. Y., Neilson, E. K., Torchalla, I., Werker, G. R., Laing, A., & Krausz, M. (2014). Exploring e-Mental Health Preferences of Generation Y. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 32(4), 312-327.
Travers, M. & Benton, S. A. (2014). The Acceptability of Therapist-Assisted, Internet-Delivered Treatment for College Students. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 28:35–46.



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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