Frequently Asked Questions
What is PSPNET?
PSPNET is a clinical research unit located at the University of Regina in partnership with the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT). The Principal Investigator of the PSPNET project is Dr. Heather Hadjistavropoulos from the University of Regina. The co-investigator is Dr. R. Nicholas Carleton from the University of Regina and Scientific Director of CIPSRT. PSPNET makes use of Internet-delivered cognitive behaviour therapy (ICBT) programs that were initially developed at Macquarie University in Australia and have been tailored to public safety personnel (PSP) including first responders. The team delivers services online and conducts research on various aspects of ICBT for PSP. We offer two programs. One is called the PSP Wellbeing Course which is appropriate for clients who have diverse mental health concerns. The other is called the PSP PTSD Course and is more specific to clients who are primarily concerned with symptoms of posttraumatic stress.
How do I participate in ICBT?
Step 1 — Read about the Courses
Read through the description of the therapist-guided PSP Wellbeing Course and therapist-guided PSP PTSD Course currently being offered by our team. We are currently offering the following programs in English and French to residents of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.
Step 2 — Complete a screening
Before you begin, we want to ensure that this type of therapy is a good fit for you. To do this, it is necessary for us to understand what you are experiencing.
For this screening, you will be asked for your contact information and to answer questionnaires about your symptoms. This should take approximately 30 minutes. After you complete the online screening you will be directed to book an appointment with a PSPNET staff person who will conduct a telephone interview. Based on your responses, the screener will also help you determine whether the PSP Wellbeing Course or PSP PTSD Course seems to be the best fit for your needs.
This interview is done over the phone and takes approximately 20-30 minutes. In this conversation, a PSPNET screener will discuss your responses with you, and determine if this therapy is a good fit for you at this time.
If you are interested in ICBT, follow the “Account Signup” link provided under the “Courses” or the “My Account” tab.
What is required from me if I decide to participate?
We try our best to provide you with the highest quality service possible and are dedicated to supporting people to manage a variety of symptoms related to their mental health. Before applying, please ensure that you are prepared to accept the following responsibilities:
- You will need to read our emails very carefully.
- You will complete all questionnaires within 48 hours of receipt
- You have checked to ensure you have a healthy computer and a reliable internet connection.
- You will only apply if you are determined to challenge yourself to try new strategies and are prepared to work consistently at this challenge for 8 weeks.
How much time/effort is involved in ICBT?
ICBT require perseverance, determination, and courage. If you apply, you will need to take time to learn about your mental health and work on structured strategies and tools to better manage challenges you may be experiencing. That said, many ICBT clients have compared it to a “good workout” – requiring a relatively small amount of effort to reap significant rewards. You can expect to spend several hours each week reviewing and working on the materials and homework assignments. Some clients read the materials in one sitting, but many review them gradually over the week at their own convenience (e.g., at night). The homework assignments are strongly recommended, because just reading about helpful techniques for managing symptoms is unlikely to fix the problem you want to overcome. Researchers have shown that 80%+ of clients are able to finish reviewing the ICBT course materials within 8 weeks. Our team understands that some PSP, however, have hectic schedules and therefore will extend the timeline if needed. ICBT will not resolve your challenges overnight, but it can really help. If you follow the guidelines we expect that you will learn the foundations for success and, with consistent practice, you should gain mastery over your symptoms.
What are some of the advantages of ICBT?
ICBT offers many advantages that include:
- not needing to schedule an appointment;
- avoid visiting an office if transportation, limited time, or privacy are a concern for you;
- having more control over the pace of therapy;
- accessing the online material from the location of your choice at your convenience;
- being able to print off the materials;
- messaging your therapist at any time through our secure system;
- increasing the level of comfort when disclosing personal information online than in person; and
- enjoying the benefits of the service free of charge.
How much contact will I have with a therapist?
It depends on which course you sign up for. The Self-Guided PSP Wellbeing Course and the PSP Spouse or Significant Other Wellbeing Course are self-guided, meaning that clients of these courses do not receive support from a therapist. However, the PSP Wellbeing Course and the PSP PTSD Course are therapist-guided. If you sign up for one of these two courses, you will have choices for therapist support, including optional therapist support, or once or twice weekly therapist support during the course. Each week your therapist is available to check in with you through secure online email messaging on our website and to answer any questions you have sent them during the week. Sometimes, therapists will also call clients if this is felt to be clinically helpful. Therapists are trained to offer therapeutic support to clients as they work through the material. The therapist will typically offer support and encouragement and assist clients in understanding and applying the techniques introduced in the course. Contact with therapists can be shorter or longer depending on the client’s concern
Will therapists who offer ICBT be able to tell if I am struggling if they can’t physically see me?
Researchers have shown that ICBT, in which clients have some access to a therapist, has similar therapeutic outcomes as face-to-face cognitive behavior therapy. PSPNET therapists have several ways of checking in with you, including regular administration of questionnaires, secure email and telephone to regularly assess your progress. PSPNET therapists are trained and supervised in how to connect with clients using ICBT. Clients who receive ICBT report a high level of satisfaction with their therapists.
Can I participate in ICBT if I’ve not been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or PTSD?
ICBT is a good fit for people who have received various mental health diagnoses, but also for people who only have a few of the signs and symptoms of these conditions.
If I am seeing a mental health professional in person, can I also use PSPNET?
We typically recommend that if you are currently seeing a mental health professional, you do not also use ICBT. There may be instances, however, when this is appropriate, such as when this is recommended by your therapist as a supplement to existing treatment (e.g., when seeing a psychiatrist primarily for medication management, when on a long waiting list for services).
Will ICBT be able to help me if my problems are really severe?
Researchers have shown that clients with very severe mental health concerns as well as mild and moderate concerns make improvements with ICBT. Before starting ICBT, you will complete an online and telephone screening to ensure the course is a good fit for you. Sometimes the support provided through ICBT is not always sufficient for people with certain mental health concerns. Examples of situations where ICBT would not be a good fit include, when someone has daily strong, intense thoughts about harming themselves or others, or if they’ve recently harmed themselves or others. If a person is in a life-threatening situation they should seek out immediate in-person assistance. Also, if someone appears to have delusions or hallucinations, or is currently misusing drugs or alcohol, ICBT would not be the best option for treatment.
During ICBT, your therapist will be monitoring your progress carefully through regular administration of questionnaires, and will follow-up on these questionnaires with secure emails and or telephone calls. If your therapist notices a significant change in your symptoms then they will recommend and help you connect with face-to-face services.
Will ICBT be able to meet the needs of PSP?
ICBT is based on research with thousands of clients from Australia and Canada. PSPNET staff have systematically worked to adapt ICBT treatment materials to meet the needs of PSP. We will be seeking your feedback throughout ICBT to help us continually improve our services. There may be specific or unique needs that arise during ICBT, but our PSPNET staff will make every effort to ensure that your concerns are met with the utmost attention and support. The PSPNET staff are committed to working with first responders and PSP.
Will ICBT be private and confidential?
ICBT is offered through the PSPNET website which is located at and maintained by the University of Regina. Information shared with therapists is encrypted using secure socket layer (SSL) technology (protocol similar to online banking). All messages are sent and stored on our secure server, which is also encrypted. Your identifying information on the server is only available to the therapist assigned to work with you and their supervisor.
Will my participation in ICBT be kept confidential?
Your participation is confidential. There are, however, some circumstances when we may need to break confidentiality, such as when there is:
- potential, imminent harm to you or others;
- suspected neglect or harm to a child, including the witnessing of violence;
- a court order to release information; or
- where required by legislation.
PSPNET is a research facility. As such, when your information is used for research and scholarly purposes, we de-identify the information used for these purposes. This means that your information will only ever be analyzed and presented in a way such that you are not identifiable.
How can I protect the privacy of my information?
- Use your home computer instead of a computer in a shared space (e.g., library or office), if possible.
- Do not share your login information with anyone. Do not use a password that is easily guessed by others. The PSPNET staff will never ask for your password.
- In the event you were contacted an asked for your password, contact us immediately to report this.
- Log out after you have finished your work on the website.
- Log out before leaving your computer.
- To further increase security, you can enable “privacy” modes within your browser. Once in this mode, your interactions are not saved to browser history.
- Firewalls protect your computer and information from network attacks and threats. Enable either the firewall software that came with your operating system (e.g., Windows firewall), or install a reputable 3rd party software, such as ZoneAlarm.
- Use anti-virus software. This software can either be purchased or downloaded for free. If you choose free software, ensure that the free software is reputable.
- You can also use malware-detection software (e.g., Spybot: Search and Destroy, Microsoft Security Essentials) to scan your computer for software and files that could leak your personal information to 3rd parties.
- If using a computer in a shared space, take steps to ensure that the security software mentioned above is installed and updated.
Will it be difficult to use ICBT if I am not good with computers?
Our website is designed to be very user-friendly and does not require extensive computer skills to navigate. You can also call us or email us if you encounter technical difficulties when using the site.
What if I have a vacation planned while working through ICBT?
We want people to have the opportunity to get the most out of ICBT. Due to the fact that ICBT is time-restricted (normally 8 weeks), we ask that you consider starting the course when you have the time available to work through the course consistently, on a weekly basis. If something unforeseen should come up once you have started the course, please message your therapist to let them know. In the message, please indicate how long you will be away and when you plan to be back online.
What if I decide to discontinue ICBT after I’ve started?
Once you have started ICBT, we hope that you will participate for the full program. However, we realize that some people may decide that ICBT is not for them. If you decide to discontinue your participation in ICBT, please let us know. You are able to withdraw from the course at any time without any consequences. We would appreciate your feedback about your experience with ICBT. Since we are trying to improve ICBT for first responders and PSP, you could help us identify things that could be improved.
How can first responders or PSP organizations learn more about PSPNET?
- If you would like posters to distribute to your organization please contact us at email@example.com.
- You can download a brief handout on our services here and a postcard here. Feel free to email the handout to anyone you think might be interested in learning more about PSPNET.
- PSPNET team members are also often available to present on PSPNET either in person or through webinars.
What are the long-term plans for PSPNET?
- In 2020, PSPNET began to offer and evaluate services in Saskatchewan and in July 2020, we began to offer PSPNET in Quebec.
- As of October 2021, we are now offering PSPNET in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
- We have some capacity to support public safety personnel in Alberta and Ontario, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm your interest, and we can advise of availability.
- Our team is funded until 2023; we are working on a sustainability plan to expand PSPNET beyond 2023.
What research is being done on ICBT for PSP?
The purpose of the research is to understand the extent to which PSP engage with ICBT, and the amount of therapist support PSP require. We also aim to understand how ICBT impacts symptoms and functioning over time and the strengths and weaknesses of ICBT. The research will be used to improve ICBT for PSP. We are studying two ICBT courses, the PSP Wellbeing Course and the PSP PSTD Course.
What do I do if I have issues with my account or the course?
Here are some common issues users may encounter.