Stakeholder Perceptions of Internet-Delivered Cognitive Behavior Therapy as a Treatment Option for Alcohol Misuse: Qualitative Analysis

JMIR Ment Health. 2020 Mar 3;7(3):e14698. doi: 10.2196/14698.


Background: Internet-delivered cognitive behavior therapy (ICBT) has been found to be effective for treating alcohol misuse in research trials, but it is not available as part of routine care in Canada. Recent recommendations in the literature highlight the importance of integrating perspectives from both patient and health care stakeholders when ICBT is being implemented in routine practice settings.

Objective: This study aimed to gain an understanding of how ICBT is perceived as a treatment option for alcohol misuse by interviewing diverse stakeholders. Specifically, the objectives were to (1) learn about the perceived advantages and disadvantages of ICBT for alcohol misuse and (2) elicit recommendations to inform implementation efforts in routine practice.

Methods: A total of 30 participants representing six stakeholder groups (ie, patients, family members, academic experts, frontline managers, service providers, and health care decision makers) participated in semistructured interviews. To be included in the study, stakeholders had to reside in Saskatchewan, Canada, and have personal or professional experience with alcohol misuse. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, anonymized, and analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: Stakeholders identified numerous advantages of ICBT for alcohol misuse (eg, accessibility, convenience, privacy, relevance to technology-based culture, and fit with stepped care) and several disadvantages (eg, lack of internet access and technological literacy, isolation, less accountability, and unfamiliarity with ICBT). Stakeholders also provided valuable insight into factors to consider when implementing ICBT for alcohol misuse in routine practice. In terms of intervention design, stakeholders recommended a 6- to 8-week guided program that uses Web-based advertising, point-of-sale marketing, and large-scale captive audiences to recruit participants. With regard to treatment content, stakeholders recommended that the program focus on harm reduction rather than abstinence; be evidence based; appeal to the diverse residents of Saskatchewan; and use language that is simple, encouraging, and nonjudgmental. Finally, in terms of population characteristics, stakeholders felt that several features of the alcohol misuse population, such as psychiatric comorbidity, readiness for change, and stigma, should be considered when developing an ICBT program for alcohol misuse.

Conclusions: Stakeholders' insights will help maximize the acceptability, appropriateness, and adoption of ICBT for alcohol misuse and in turn contribute to implementation success. The methodology and findings from this study could be of benefit to others who are seeking to implement ICBT in routine practice.

Keywords: alcohol consumption; cognitive behavioral therapy; implementation science; internet intervention; qualitative research; stakeholder participation.