Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Michael E. Levin


Michael E. Levin


Michael P. Twohig


Gretchen G. Peacock


Online self-help programs can serve as accessible mental health resources, allowing users to learn skills for improving their mental health at their own pace. The self-guided nature of these programs allows them to be cost-efficient as compared to traditional therapy and appealing to those who do not want to attend traditional therapy due to stigma or low-perceived need. However, these programs also struggle with low adherence rates, with typically only a small subset of users completing a given program in full. Coaching has been previously explored as a way to increase program adherence, adding a low-intensity human component to self-help programs. Typically, graduate students or mental health professionals serve as coaches, but this is a resource-intensive approach that is difficult to scale-up. The present study tested the efficacy, feasibility, and acceptability of peer-support coaching, which would be feasible to scale-up on account of using undergraduate volunteers as coaches.

We conducted a randomized controlled trial with 230 participants assigned across three conditions. All conditions were instructed to use the online self-help program ACT Guide, with one additionally receiving weekly phone coaching, one receiving weekly text coaching, and one receiving no additional coaching. Participants who received either format of coaching completed significantly more modules and were more satisfied with ACT Guide than those who did not receive coaching. Significant improvements in mental health outcomes were observed within both coaching conditions, but a greater number of outcomes improved in the phone condition than the text condition. These findings shed light on peer-support coaching, particularly when delivered over phone calls, as a promising intervention for increasing adherence to and thus the effectiveness of online self-help programs.



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