Web-based CBT for the prevention of anxiety symptoms among medical and health science graduate students

Cogn Behav Ther. 2019 Sep;48(5):385-405. doi: 10.1080/16506073.2018.1533575. Epub 2018 Dec 11.


Medical and health science graduate students report greater anxiety problems than the general population, but they are less likely to seek treatment due to cultural and logistical barriers. One preventative approach that overcomes these barriers is web-based cognitive behavioral therapy (webCBT). It is unknown whether webCBT is effective for preventing anxiety escalation within this population. A randomized controlled trial was conducted, comparing the effects of webCBT versus a control group (CG). Medical university students (n=594; Mage=27; 67% female; 80% Caucasian) completed online baseline measures and four assigned online activities. Measures were re-administered after approximately three months. There was a small interaction effect between time of assessment and treatment condition. Anxiety severity was lower in the webCBT (M[SD]=2.88[3.36]) versus CG condition (M[SD]=3.69 [3.35]) at follow-up. This effect was moderate for students with mild, versus minimal, anxiety at baseline. The proportion of students with possible anxiety disorder was lower in the webCBT (4.5%) versus CG (8.5%) condition, and the proportion of mildly anxious students with a clinically significant increase in symptoms was lower in the webCBT (10%) versus CG (20%) condition. WebCBT may aid in preventing anxiety escalation in this population, particularly for at-risk students who report mild anxiety symptoms.

Keywords: CBT; anxiety; graduate students; internet; medical students; prevention; web.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Anxiety Disorders / prevention & control
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Students / psychology*
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted
  • Universities
  • Young Adult