Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Joanna J. Arch

Second Advisor

Mark Whisman

Third Advisor

Soo Rhee

Fourth Advisor

Angela Bryan

Fifth Advisor

Allison Atteberry

Abstract

Objective: Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is one of the most prevalent psychological disorders and often causes substantial distress and impairment. Although effective psychotherapy exists (e.g. cognitive-behavioral therapy), the majority of affected adults never seeks treatment for their SAD. The present study aimed to address this challenge by developing, implementing, and evaluating the impact of two distinct online interventions designed to facilitate treatment seeking among adults with social anxiety symptoms. Method: Adults with elevated social anxiety were recruited online through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two online, single-session conditions: (1) brief psychoeducation, interactive Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI)- based intervention, and referral information or (2) brief psychoeducation and referral information alone. Follow-up (FU) data was collected one month post-intervention. A sample of N = 245 adults completed the intervention session. Results: Hypotheses regarding the feasibility of the intervention were supported. Both conditions were engaged and reported moderate satisfaction. The data supported the hypothesis that both conditions would improve attitudes toward seeking treatment, intentions to seek treatment, and perceived behavioral control over seeking treatment over time, with exceptions on particular subscales. Hypotheses regarding group differences were partially supported. On some outcomes (e.g. attitudes), the motivational condition was more effective than the control, as hypothesized, whereas on others the conditions did not differ significantly. Behavior reported at FU revealed that across groups, the majority of participants engaged in at least one action toward seeking treatment following the intervention. The data supported the hypothesis that the motivational condition would engage in more total treatment seeking behavior than the control, but this did not hold true on behavior subscales (with the exception that motivational condition participants sought significantly more “alternative” treatments, including life coach, meditation, herbal supplements, toastmasters, religious/spiritual advisor, exercise, or other, than the control). Conclusions: Utilizing a brief online format is a promising direction for facilitating treatment seeking for social anxiety. We recommend that future research include an active comparison or match conditions on length, have sufficient statistical power to detect group differences in behavioral outcomes, and use simpler language to describe evidence-based treatment.

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