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BACKGROUND: Guided internet-based psychological interventions show substantial promise for expanding access to evidence-based mental health care. However, this can only be achieved if results of tightly controlled studies from the treatment developers can also be achieved in other independent settings. This dissemination depends critically on developing efficient and effective ways to train professionals to deliver these interventions. Unfortunately, descriptions of therapist training and its evaluation are often limited or absent within dissemination studies. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to describe and evaluate a program of therapist training to deliver internet-based Cognitive Therapy for social anxiety disorder (iCT-SAD). As this treatment was developed in the United Kingdom and this study was conducted in Hong Kong with local therapists, an additional objective was to examine the feasibility, acceptability, and initial efficacy of iCT-SAD in this cultural context, based on data from a pilot case series. METHODS: Training in iCT-SAD was provided to 3 therapists and included practice of the face-to-face format of therapy under clinical supervision, training workshops, and treating 6 patients with the iCT-SAD program. Training progress was evaluated using standardized and self-report measures and by reviewing patient outcomes. In addition, feedback from patients and therapists was sought regarding the feasibility and acceptability of the program. RESULTS: The training program was effective at increasing therapists' iCT-SAD knowledge and skills, resulting in levels of competence expected of a specialist Cognitive Behavioral Therapy practitioner. The 6 patients treated by the trainees all completed their treatment and achieved a mean pre- to posttreatment change of 53.8 points (SD 39.5) on the primary patient outcome measure, the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale. The within-group effect size (Cohen d) was 2.06 (95% CI 0.66-3.46). There was evidence to suggest that the patients' clinical outcomes were sustained at 3-month follow-up. These clinical results are comparable to those achieved by UK patients treated by the developers of the internet program. Patient and therapist feedback did not identify any major cultural barriers to implementing iCT-SAD in Hong Kong; some modest language suggestions were made to assist understanding. CONCLUSIONS: The therapist training implemented here facilitated the successful dissemination of an effective UK-developed internet intervention to Hong Kong. The treatment appeared feasible and acceptable in this setting and showed highly promising initial efficacy. A randomized controlled trial is now required to examine this more robustly. As therapist training is critical to the successful dissemination of internet interventions, further research to develop, describe, and evaluate therapist training procedures is recommended.

Original publication




Journal article


JMIR Form Res

Publication Date





Hong Kong, anxiety, benchmarking, clinical competence, cognitive therapy, cross-cultural comparison, internet, mental health, psychology, clinical, social phobia