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HKBU launches online counselling programme

Image Credits: HKBU, Press Release

A research team led by the Department of Social Work at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) has launched an online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programme named REST Online for tertiary students aged 18 or above with mild to moderate levels of psychological distress.

The programme is recruiting 280 tertiary students with the aim of providing easy access to counselling services, and it hopes to help students alleviate distress when encountering challenges in post-secondary school life.

REST Online to enhance stress management skills

Tertiary students experience stress arising from changes in lifestyle, increased workload and new interpersonal relationships, yet most of them may not seek counselling services proactively.

The Associate Professor of the Department of Social Work at HKBU and her team have developed an online CBT programme named REST Online to enhance their stress management skills and improve their mental health.

CBT is a goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that helps people cope with life challenges by adjusting their patterns of thinking or behaviour. In addition to online CBT modules, REST Online has invited an experienced counsellor to provide online and offline support to participants.

Participants will first be selected through an online screening questionnaire and a face-to-face intake interview. Those who show mild to moderate levels of psychological distress will be invited to participate in the 10-week programme, while high-risk cases will be referred to social service agencies for urgent follow-up.

Evidence-based mental health service

REST Online adopts a blended mode of service delivery including both online and offline counselling. The online service comprises eight weekly online modules, an online forum, reminder, booking, internal messaging and self-evaluation assessments delivered on the programme website or mobile app.

The online modules include CBT skills briefing, case demonstration videos, exercise and feedback. The service content is tailored for local tertiary students and delivered in Cantonese, with the case demonstration videos produced from local cases to fit the cultural context of Hong Kong. To evaluate the effectiveness of the programme, participants need to take a test upon completion of the programme, and a follow-up test three months later.

The offline counselling is provided by an experienced counsellor, who will provide one face-to-face session plus one telephone follow-up to assist with the online service and review the service progress.

Novel approach to meet the needs of tertiary students

Counselling services on campus are often inadequate to meet tertiary students’ increasing mental health needs, especially in Hong Kong. The REST Online programme will be a valuable supplementary resource for local counsellors in tertiary institutions, helping them to relieve the service bottleneck of insufficient manpower.

With young peoples’ strong learning capabilities and conversant skills in information technology, the novel approach of REST Online will be easily accepted by students and it will help address their increasing mental health needs, she added.

Besides the Department of Social Work at HKBU, the research team also includes the Associate Head and Professor of the Department of Computer Science at HKBU, as well as the Head of the Clinical Psychology Division in the Department of Psychology at Stockholm University, Sweden.

The programme has partnered with the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong and it is supported by a grant from the University Grants Committee.

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