The Cool Teens CD-ROM: An Anxiety Management Program for Young People

Article excerpt

CD-ROM (PC & Mac); An 8-module, multimedia computer program with audio and video from the Macquarie University Anxiety Research Unit (MUARU), Sydney; Produced: 2006; Currently only available to research study participants (teens aged 14 to 18 from anywhere in Australia who have anxiety and access to a computer); Enquiries: Cool.Teens@psy.mq.edu.au.

REVIEWERS

MIKE CUNNINGHAM

Project Manager

VlVIANA WUTHRICH (1)

Lead Clinical Psychologist for Cool Teens CD Study

Macquarie University Anxiety Research Unit

(MUARU)

Overview by the Cool Teens Project Team

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in young people and can produce marked interference in their lives. Despite the development of many effective cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programs for this problem, access to treatment services remains a problem and it is estimated that only 1 in 4 teenagers receive professional help. A variety of treatment barriers may be involved, including lack of confidentiality, stigma, cost, geographic isolation, access to therapists, and discomfort with traditional therapy procedures and formats. Since computer-based CBT (CCBT) has been shown to be clinically efficacious and an acceptable therapy format for various forms of anxiety in adults, a project team at Macquarie University's Anxiety Research Unit (MUARU) set about offering a new computer-based option. As a result, we have developed Cool Teens, an independent self-help therapy CD-ROM specifically for adolescents with anxiety.

This multimedia CD-ROM consists of 8 therapy modules. It is a home-based CBT program that helps users to develop skills to cope better with the negative feelings associated with anxieties, such as fear, worry, nervousness or shyness. Its content addresses a broad range of anxiety but does have a focus on the two most common types in adolescents--Social Phobia and Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

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Program content has been designed for young people using a combination of media (text, audio, illustrations, cartoons, and live video) to deliver information, examples, activities, and exercises. One particularly popular feature is the use of case studies--'Other People's Stories'.

The Cool Teens CD provides an overall 12-week program for independent use. It includes 2 major CBT techniques (cognitive restructuring and exposure), complemented by psycho-education, setting goals, coping skills, and a section on maintenance and relapse. Modules contain information, interactive exercises, hypothetical scenarios, and case studies. Each module takes 30 to 60 minutes to complete and the user also has practice tasks to perform outside of the time they spend on the computer. The modules are:

* Understanding Anxiety--Contains background information on anxiety and introduces the main characters used to present content in the program;

* Setting7Goals--Suggests how to get the best results from using the program;

* Realistic Thinking I & II--A technique to help users replace their worried thoughts with realistic, calmer ones;

* Stepladders I & II--A technique to help users face their fears using a step-by-step approach;

* Other Coping Skills--Strategies for dealing with anxiety, e.g. problem solving, assertiveness;

* Staying Cool--Key tips about preventing future problems with anxiety.

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A home page provides access to all the modules and to several progress tools. Although users have open access (they can choose the order in which they use modules), there is a recommended sequence. The entire program is ideally used over 8 to 12 weeks but individuals can move at their own pace depending on the severity of their problems and how much time they can dedicate to the practice tasks.

Finally, the program was designed with the intention that it can be delivered with minimal support from professionals such as GPs or counsellors. …