1 University Hospital Heidelberg, Center for Psychotherapy Research, Heidelberg, Germany
2 Trinity College Dublin, Student Counseling Service, Dublin, Ireland
In the field of illness prevention, it is becoming increasingly important that effective treatments be broadly disseminated and easily accessible to large populations located over wide geographical areas. The internet offers many opportunities to improve illness prevention and has become an important tool for both providers and users. An increasing number of users are looking for help on web-pages, in forums and chat rooms, to access information and exchange experiences with other users or counselors. Appetite for Life is an Internet-based program for the prevention of eating disorders (ED) in college students. It provides individualized support to students at-risk of developing an ED. Depending on initial screening results, specific program modules are recommended to the user, matching their individual needs. The program contains a web-page with psychoeducational information on ED, an anonymous forum to receive and provide peer support, a supportive monitoring and feedback program and a chat platform, which can be used to communicate with professional counselors and other users. If needed, users can be referred to face-to-face counseling.
In this paper we report experience in practical use of the program at the Trinity College Dublin. Participants could anonymously register and individually choose the length of participation in the prevention program. Two months after registration and at the time of deregistration, participants were asked to evaluate the program. Data of Nscreened=457 and Nregistered=100 students are presented. Experiences with the program indicate that support can be matched to individual requirements by providing Internet-delivered stepped-care modules that encourage the user to seek support according to their personal preferences and needs.
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