Health Professionals’ Attitudes towards Electronic Psychosocial Assessments in Youth Mental Healthcare


Psychosocial assessments can help mental health professionals establish good therapeutic relationships while simultaneously conducting holistic assessments of their young clients. Using technology to conduct assessments may increase disclosure by young people; however, the uptake of new technologies into current face-to-face practice has been slow. In the current study, we were interested in exploring the attitudes of mental health workers to using an electronic psychosocial assessment tool (e-tool) within face-to-face service delivery with adolescents and young adults. An exploratory design was used to identify and qualitatively describe the views of 46 mental health workers from services across the ACT and Victoria, Australia. Data were coded using an inductive thematic approach. Comments indicated that mental health workers held both positive and negative views about the e-tool. Some participants believed that it would allow disclosure to occur in a stepped process, normalize questions, give youth greater input, and be time efficient. However, the majority believed that the e-tool would infringe on their work because they needed to respond to their clients immediately, it would not provide an accurate representation of the client, young people did not have the necessary capabilities to engage in the process, they would miss non-verbal cues from the young person, and they were more likely to gain information from organic conversations. The results suggest that many mental health professionals may be fearful of incorporating new technologies in current practice. Specific training and supportive implementation guidelines must be developed to support use of these new technologies and change practice.

Share and Cite:

Bradford, S. , Rickwood, D. and Boer, D. (2014) Health Professionals’ Attitudes towards Electronic Psychosocial Assessments in Youth Mental Healthcare. Health, 6, 1822-1833. doi: 10.4236/health.2014.614214.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] de Girolamo, G., Dagani, J., Purcell, R., Cocchi, A. and McGorry, P.D. (2012) Age of Onset of Mental Disorders and Use of Mental Health Services: Needs, Opportunities and Obstacles. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 21, 47-57.
[2] Kessler, R.C., Chiu, W.T., Demler, O. and Walters, E.E. (2005) Prevalence, Severity, and Comorbidity of 12-Month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 617-627.
[3] Gore, F.M., et al. (2011) Global Burden of Disease in Young People Aged 10-24 Years: A Systematic Analysis. The Lancet (British Edition), 377, 2093-2102.
[4] McGorry, P., Purcell, R., Goldstone, S. and Amminger, G.P. (2011) Age of Onset and Timing of Treatment for Mental and Substance Use Disorders: Implications for Preventive Intervention Strategies and Models of Care. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 24, 301-306.
[5] Singh, S.P. (2009) Transition of Care from Child to Adult Mental Health Services: The Great Divide. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 22, 386-390.
[6] McGorry, P. (2006) Reforming Youth Mental Health. Australian Family Physician, 35, 314-314.
[7] Rickwood, D., Deane, F.P., Wilson, C.J. and Ciarrochi, J. (2005) Young People’s Help-Seeking for Mental Health Problems. Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health, 4.
[8] American Psychological Association Presedential Task Force on Evidence-Based Practice (2006) Evidence-Based Practice in Psychology. American Psychologist, 61, 271-285.
[9] Cohen, E., Mackenzie, R.G. and Yates, G.L. (1991) HEADSS, a Psychosocial Risk Assessment Instrument: Implications for Designing Effective Intervention Programs for Runaway Youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 12, 539-544.
[10] Goldenring, J.M. and Rosen, D.S. (2004) Getting into Adolescent Heads: An Essential Update. Patient Care for the Nurse Practitioner, 21, 64-92.
[11] Bradford, S. and Rickwood, D. (2012) Psychosocial Assessments for Young People: A Systematic Review Examining Acceptability, Disclosure and Engagement, and Predictive Utility. Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, 111.
[12] Elliott, J., et al. (2004) Clinical Uses of an Adolescent Intake Questionnaire: Adquest as a Bridge to Engagement. Social Work in Mental Health, 3, 83-102.
[13] Bradford, S. and Rickwood, D. (2014) Young People’s Views on Electronic Mental Health Assessment: Prefer to Type than Talk? Journal of Child and Family Studies, 1-9.
[14] Truman, J., et al. (2003) The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire: A Pilot Study of a New Computer Version of the Self-Report Scale. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 12, 9-14.
[15] Nguyen, M., Bin, Y.S. and Campbell, A. (2012) Comparing Online and Offline Self-Disclosure: A Systematic Review. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Net-working, 15, 103-111.
[16] Edwards-Hart, T. and Chester, A. (2010) Online Mental Health Resources for Adolescents: Overview of Research and Theory. Australian Psychologist, 45, 223-230.
[17] Sethi, S., Campbell, A.J. and Ellis, L.A. (2010) The Use of Computerized Self-Help Packages to Treat Adolescent Depression and Anxiety. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 28, 144-160.
[18] Tillfors, M., et al. (2011) A Randomized Trial of Internet-Delivered Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder in High School Students. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 40, 147-157.
[19] Barak, A., Hen, L., Boniel-Nissim, M. and Shapira, N.A. (2008) A Comprehensive Review and a Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of Internet-Based Psychotherapeutic Interventions. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 26, 109-160.
[20] Dowling, M. and Rickwood, D. (2013) Online Counseling and Therapy for Mental Health Problems: A Systematic Review of Individual Synchronous Interventions Using Chat. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 31, 1-21.
[21] Suler, J. (2004) The Online Disinhibition Effect. Cyber Psychology & Behavior, 7, 321-326.
[22] Bradford, S. and Rickwood, D. (2012) Adolescent’s Preferred Modes of Delivery for Mental Health Services. Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
[23] Moulding, N.T., Silagy, C.A. and Weller, D.P. (1999) A Framework for Effective Management of Change in Clinical Practice: Dissemination and Implementation of Clinical Practice Guidelines. Quality in Health Care, 8, 177-183.
[24] Prochaska, J.O. and Di Clemente, C.C. (1983) Stages and Processes of Self-Change of Smoking: Toward an Integrative Model of Change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 390-395.
[25] Weiner, B.J. (2009) A Theory of Organizational Readiness for Change. Implementation Science, 4, 67.
[26] Mittman, B.S., Tonesk, X. and Jacobson, P.D. (1992) Implementing Clinical Practice Guidelines: Social Influence Strategies and Practitioner Behavior Change. Quality Review Bulletin, 18, 413-422.
[27] Guest, G., Bunce, A. and Johnson, L. (2006) How Many Interviews Are Enough? An Experiment with Data Saturation and Variability. Field Methods, 18, 59-82.
[28] Rickwood, D., Telford, N., Parker, A., Tanti, C. and McGorry, P. (2014) Headspace—Australia’s Innovation in Youth Mental Health: Who Are the Clients and Why Are They Presenting? The Medical Journal of Australia, 200, 108-111.
[29] Patton, M.Q. (2002) Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods. SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks.
[30] QSR (2012) NVivo Qualitative Data Analysis Software. QSR International Pty Ltd., Doncaster.
[31] Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006) Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77-101.
[32] Thomas, D.R. (2006) A General Inductive Approach for Analyzing Qualitative Evaluation Data. American Journal of Evaluation, 27, 237-246.
[33] Richards, L. and Morse, J.M. (2007) ReadMe First for a User’s Guide to Qualitative Methods Research. SAGE Publications Incorporated, Thousand Oaks.
[34] Fereday, J. and Muir-Cochrane, E. (2006) Demonstrating Rigor Using Thematic Analysis: A Hybrid Approach of Inductive and Deductive Coding and Theme Development. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5, 1-11.
[35] Guest, G. and MacQueen, K.M. (2008) Handbook for Team-Based Qualitative Research. Rowman & Littlefield Pub Incorporated, Washington DC.
[36] Carey, J.W., Morgan, M. and Oxtoby, M.J. (1996) Intercoder Agreement in Analysis of Responses to Open-Ended Interview Questions: Examples from Tuberculosis Research. Field Methods, 8, 1-5.
[37] Cohen, J. (1960) A Coefficient of Agreement for Nominal Scales. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 20, 37-46.
[38] Hill, C.E., Knox, S., Thompson, B.J., Williams, E.N., Hess, S.A. and Ladany, N. (2005) Consensual Qualitative Research: An Update. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52, 196-205.
[39] Blanchard, M., Metcalf, A., Degney, J., Herrman, H. and Burns, J. (2008) Rethinking the Digital Divide: Findings from a Study of Marginalised Young People’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) Use. Youth Studies Australia, 27, 35-42.
[40] Blanchard, M., Hosie, A. and Burns, J. (2013) Embracing Technologies to Improve Well-Being for Young People. In: Robertson, A., Jones-Parry, R. and Kuzamba, M., Eds., Commonwealth Health Partnerships: Youth, Health and Employment, Nexus Strategic Partnerships Ltd., Cambridge, 127-132.
[41] Coyle, D., Matthews, M., Sharry, J., Nisbet, A. and Doherty, G. (2005) Personal Investigator: A Therapeutic 3D Game for Adolecscent Psychotherapy. Interactive Technology and Smart Education, 2, 73-88.
[42] Burns, J.M., et al. (2013) Game on: Exploring the Impact of Technologies on Young Men’s Mental Health and Wellbeing. Findings Form the First Young and Well National Survey. Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, Melbourne.
[43] Knaevelsrud, C. and Maercker, A. (2007) Internet-Based Treatment for PTSD Reduces Distress and Facilitates the Development of a Strong Therapeutic Alliance: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. BMC Psychiatry, 7, 13.
[44] Kauer, S.D., Reid, S.C., Sanci, L. and Patton, G.C. (2009) Investigating the Utility of Mobile Phones for Collecting Data about Adolescent Alcohol Use and Related Mood, Stress and Coping Behaviours: Lessons and Recommendations. Drug and Alcohol Review, 28, 25-30.
[45] Hoek, W., Schuurmans, J., Koot, H.M. and Cuijpers, P. (2009) Prevention of Depression and Anxiety in Adolescents: A Randomized Controlled Trial Testing the Efficacy and Mechanisms of Internet-Based Self-Help Problem-Solving Therapy. Trials, 10, 93.
[46] Calear, A.L., Christensen, H., Mackinnon, A., Griffiths, K.M. and O’Kearney, R. (2009) The YouthMood Project: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial of an Online Cognitive Behavioral Program with Adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77, 1021-1032.
[47] Adams, J.R. and Drake, R.E. (2006) Shared Decision-Making and Evidence-Based Practice. Community Mental Health Journal, 42, 87-105.
[48] Charles, C. and DeMaio, S. (1993) Lay Participation in Health Care Decision Making: A Conceptual Framework. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 18, 881-904.
[49] Clever, S.L., Ford, D.E., Rubenstein, L.V., Rost, K.M., Meredith, L.S., Sherbourne, C.D., Wang, N.Y., Arbelaez, J.J. and Cooper, L.A. (2006) Primary Care Patients’ Involvement in Decision-Making Is Associated with Improvement in Depression. Medical Care, 44, 398-405.
[50] Swanson, K.A., Bastani, R., Rubenstein, L.V., Meredith, L.S. and Ford, D.E. (2007) Effect of Mental Health Care and Shared Decision Making on Patient Satisfaction in a Community Sample of Patients with Depression. Medical Care Research and Review, 64, 416-430.
[51] Brehm, J.W. (1989) Psychological Reactance: Theory and Applications. In: Srull, T.K., Ed., Advances in Consumer Research, Association for Consumer Research, Provo, 72-75.

Copyright © 2022 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.