Self-isolation, quarantine, social distancing – we are spending a lot of time at home these days and probably a lot more time on the internet too. To help ensure therapy remains accessible, many psychology practices are offering online video teleconference or phone sessions (including Winkler Psychology!). However, some people might prefer doing an online self-help course on anxiety management rather than see a psychologist in-person or via video teleconference / phone.
What does an online course for anxiety management involve?
An online course typically has a series of structured modules or lessons that cover information about anxiety, strategies to manage it, practice exercises, interactive activities, and worksheets. Some are purely self-help while some come with the option of getting support by an online therapist. Some also can provide the therapist support via phone, chat, email, or video. These courses are typically based on established treatments for anxiety delivered in the standard in-person format with a therapist.
Why would some prefer an online self-help course?
This can be for lots of different reasons. Some may not have a private place at home where they feel comfortable to talk to a therapist for an hour via video teleconference or phone. Some online courses are free or more affordable than in-person therapy. Others may just like to learn online and work through content in their own time and at their own pace. Finally, some may feel very anxious about talking to a therapist about their issues in-person and would feel more comfortable working through an online course.
How to know if an online course is right for me?
Although convenient, online courses will not be appropriate or suited for everyone and they are not meant to be a substitute for face to face assessment and treatment with a mental health professional. As such you should get advice from your doctor or a qualified mental health professional as to whether it is a good option for your situation. The course might even form part of your broader treatment with your health professional.
These courses are not appropriate if you are in a crisis or your personal safety is an issue (for example feeling suicidal). If you are feeling suicidal or in a crisis, please seek help immediately. If you are in Australia and you or anyone else is in immediate danger, call 000. If you are in distress call Lifeline (13 11 14; www.lifeline.org.au) or Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467; www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au). See Head to Health – Crisis Links (https://headtohealth.gov.au/crisis-links) for further crisis support options.
What courses are good?
With the proliferation of digital mental health resources out there these days it can be hard to know what is trustworthy and legit. To help, I have listed three places that offer online self-help anxiety courses that meet the following key quality criteria:
- Developed and operated by qualified mental health professionals.
- Based on tried and tested or best practice approaches for anxiety.
- Free to do for Australians.
- Delivered by reputable and trusted organisations.
1. This Way Up.
This organisation has a bunch of courses for different anxiety problems and related issues. It is all based on ideas and strategies that have worked in face to face therapy and its developed by a group of leading clinicians and researchers (Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney). Some courses are supervised by a clinician and some are purely self-help. The good thing here is that they are (as at the time of this blog entry) also offering some courses free during the COVID-19 crisis!
This is a not-for-profit organisation funded by the Australian government and based at Macquarie University. Their courses came out of large clinical research trials done through the eCentreClinic (https://ecentreclinic.org/). Like This Way Up, their courses are based on solid tried-and-true approaches to anxiety. Their courses are free, but you need to do their online assessment before enrolling in a course. In the courses, you can opt to have contact with a therapist weekly or only when you have questions.”
3. Mental Health Online
Here is another high-quality evidence informed option for online self-help courses for anxiety issues, this time based in Victoria. This service is an initiative of Swinburne University’s National eTherapy Centre and, like the previous groups, are funded by the Australian Government. The courses are free and you prefer you have the option to have support during the course from one of their therapists over email, chat, or video.
What else is out there?
This is not an exhaustive list and online and digital mental health services is a rapidly growing sector. There are now apps, information sheets, workbooks, online therapy, online support services and many other things that fall under the digital mental health umbrella. To help sort the wheat from the chaff, the Australian government funds a website called “Head to Health” (https://headtohealth.gov.au/). This website keeps a big list of trustworthy resources and options. It is also easy and a pleasure to navigate. Check it out if you are on the hunt for good online and digital mental health resources.