Background: Computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (cCBT) has been proven to be effective in depression care. Moreover, cCBT packages are becoming increasingly popular. A central aspect concerning the take-up and success of any treatment is its user acceptance.
Objective: The aim of this study was to update and expand on earlier work on user acceptance of cCBT for depression.
Methods: This paper systematically reviewed quantitative and qualitative studies regarding the user acceptance of cCBT for depression. The initial search was conducted in January 2016 and involved the following databases: Web of Science, PubMed, the Cochrane Library, and PsycINFO. Studies were retained if they described the explicit examination of the user acceptance, experiences, or satisfaction related to a cCBT intervention, if they reported depression as a primary outcome, and if they were published in German or English from July 2007 onward.
Results: A total of 1736 studies were identified, of which 29 studies were eligible for review. User acceptance was operationalized and analyzed very heterogeneously. Eight studies reported a very high level of acceptance, 17 indicated a high level of acceptance, and one study showed a moderate level of acceptance. Two qualitative studies considered the positive and negative aspects concerning the user acceptance of cCBT. However, a substantial proportion of reviewed studies revealed several methodical shortcomings.
Conclusions: In general, people experience cCBT for depression as predominantly positive, which supports the potential role of these innovative treatments. However, methodological challenges do exist in terms of defining user acceptance, clear operationalization of concepts, and measurement.
Depressive disorders are among the most common and serious mental illnesses . Globally, 350 million people of all ages are estimated to suffer from depression. If depressive disorders are detected at an early stage, they are highly treatable in the majority of cases [ ]. There are known effective psychological treatments, for example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) [ ]. However, individuals suffering from depression often find themselves confronted with barriers to receiving appropriate care such as social stigma associated with mental disorders, long waiting times, or the logistical difficulties of appearing in person for treatment [ , ]. For these reasons, computerized programs present an innovative approach to improving access to psychological treatments for depression. There is evidence that computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (cCBT) is effective in the treatment of various mental disorders, including depression [ – ]. There are a number of advantages that are associated with cCBT such as anonymity, wide availability, or location-independent and around-the-clock access [ , ]. Well-known cCBT programs such as Beating The Blues and MoodGYM have been shown to provide a promising option for the treatment of mental health problems [ , , ]. A prerequisite for cCBT programs to be effective is its user acceptance, as the implementation of an innovative intervention such as cCBT can be affected negatively because of individuals being unwilling to use it. For example, the absence of a contact person and the resulting anonymity can have a negative impact on the user’s motivation to start or keep up with a cCBT program. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to consider user acceptance when developing and implementing a cCBT program for the treatment of depression.
The concept of user acceptance arose as a key term in the scientific discourse. Definitions of the term differ widely depending on the intended use . One of the most popular approaches is the technology acceptance model (TAM) developed by Davis [ ]. TAM illustrates user acceptance determined by two factors: perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. According to Davis [ ], both have a significant impact on a person’s attitude toward using a new technology. Kollmann [ ] and Rogers [ ] went one step further and combined different phases in their acceptance models. Therefore, the user passes through phases from getting to know a new technology, to forming an attitude toward it, to a decision whether to use or not to the confirmation of the decision. On this basis, user acceptance can be defined as the willingness of individuals to employ information technology for the tasks it is designed to support, the realization, and approval of the decision to employ. All of these models have one thing in common: user acceptance is considered to be a process beginning with an attitude toward the innovation and developing into satisfaction with the innovation; it is not an instantaneous act. Accordingly, we have conceived acceptance as the act of accepting, experiencing, and being satisfied.
Since the emergence of the first cCBT programs, there have been a number of reviews addressing the user acceptance of cCBT; however, they have utilized different approaches. In their reviews, Titov , Andrews et al [ ], and Vallury et al [ ] focused broadly on effectiveness and user acceptance of cCBT for several mental disorders, including depression and anxiety disorders. Waller and Gilbody [ ] reviewed quantitative and qualitative studies examining adverse consequences, accessibility, and acceptability of cCBT programs for treating anxiety and depression. However, Kaltenthaler et al [ ] provide the only review with a very comprehensive and focused insight into the user acceptance of cCBT for depression, including research up to June 2007. They systematically reviewed sources of information on acceptability to patients of cCBT for depression. As a result, they documented several studies reporting positive expectancies and high satisfaction in routine care cCBT services for those completing the treatment and argued that studies should reveal more detailed information on patient recruitment methods, dropout rates, and reasons for dropping out. Furthermore, they drafted well-designed surveys and qualitative studies included alongside trials to determine levels of patient acceptability as implications for further research.
On this basis, we provide a systematic overview on user acceptance of cCBT for depression over the last 10 years and widen the perspective to include the notion that the process of user acceptance spans a number of phases, including accepting, experiencing, and being satisfied with cCBT. We intend to answer the following research questions: (1) which measures were used to examine the user acceptance of cCBT for depression? and (2) to what degree do users accept cCBT for depression? […]