Just know it : The role of explicit knowledge in internet-based cognitive behaviour therapy for adolescents

Sammanfattning: The role of explicit, declarative knowledge in general health care and in psychotherapy is a growing field of research. In many areas of healthcare, knowledge is regarded as an important factor for successful interventions. Participants within mental-health interventions should ideally gain knowledge about their specific conditions and strategies to improve, in order to manage their problems in more helpful ways. In Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), explicit knowledge is a core feature when treating clients and educating them about their symptoms, problems and potential solutions. Still, the role of knowledge and its relation to treatment outcome within CBT treatments is unclear. CBT administered over the internet (ICBT), is mainly based on psychoeducative texts and thus provides a suitable format for an initial evaluation of explicit knowledge within a clinical research context. The role of explicit knowledge could be of particular importance in the study of younger target groups, who probably have their first treatment experience. Their knowledge gain and its use could be of importance both as separate constructs but also in relation to symptom reduction following treatment.The overarching aim of this thesis was to explore the role of explicit knowledge in internet-delivered CBT for adolescents with depression and anxiety.Study I explored the role of explicit knowledge in a randomised controlled trial with adolescents suffering from primary depression. A knowledge test was constructed and administered at pre- and post-treatment. Results showed that explicit knowledge and certainty of knowledge about depression, anxiety and CBT increased during treatment, but that these variables were unrelated to treatment outcome. Lower pre-treatment knowledge levels (certainty) however predicted greater improvement in depressive symptoms.Study II describes the procedure of developing a new knowledge test in the context of ICBT for adolescents with depression and anxiety. An explorative factor analysis was performed and resulted in a three-factor solution with the following factors: Act in aversive states, Using positive reinforcement, and Shifting attention. The procedure presented could illustrate one way of creating a test for knowledge evaluation in ICBT, but its clinical use needs to be evaluated further.In Study III, participants from a randomised controlled trial of ICBT for adolescent depression were asked about their acquired knowledge and knowledge use six months later. Qualitative methodology (thematic analysis) was used. The results showed two overarching ways that clients can remember and relate to CBT-principles after treatment; one more explicit way related to the active application of CBT principles, and another vague way of recalling treatment content and the passive usage of CBT. Both ways of recalling CBT principles were related to experiencing the treatment as helpful.Study IV evaluated the role of learning strategies and chat-sessions in ICBT for adolescents with anxiety and depression. A total of 120 adolescents were randomised to one of four treatment groups, in a 2x2 factorial design with the two factors: with or without learning support and/or chat-sessions. Overall, the results showed general reductions of anxiety and depressive symptoms, and increased knowledge levels. Participants receiving learning strategies during treatment obtained more immediate benefits in treatment outcome and knowledge levels, but at six months follow-up participants without learning support had reached equal amounts of knowledge and symptom reduction. Chat-sessions did not add any effect on treatment outcome or knowledge levels.In conclusion, this thesis suggests that explicit knowledge is a construct that is independent of symptom reduction and increases during ICBT treatments for adolescents with depression and anxiety. Increased knowledge, and increased certainty of knowledge, are valuable outcomes since CBT emphasises educating clients about symptoms, therapeutic principles, and strategies that they can remember and use later on. The lack of association between explicit knowledge gain and symptom reduction could indicate that explicit knowledge is a necessary but insufficient factor for symptom reduction. Adding learning strategies within a treatment programme could be of importance for enhancing short-term treatment effects.There is a continued need for more research on the role of knowledge in ICBT, both as an outcome and as a way to improve treatment effects. The findings in this thesis however suggest that research on explicit knowledge is important to understand what makes ICBT work.

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