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Testing online self help for anxiety

Research awardPsyIMPACT programme

Funding period2014 - 2017

InstitutionUniversity of Oxford

LocationUnited Kingdom


Many people suffer with anxiety symptoms, such as feeling shy or anxious in social situations. Could online self-help programs provide the tools for them to manage their mental health? 

The project

For the many people who don’t meet the criteria for a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder but who still face ongoing anxiety every day, online tools could present a major source of relief.

After all, they’re cost-effective, accessible and can be used whenever and wherever people choose. But do they work?

Professor John Powell and his team are exploring that question in one of the first large-scale randomised trials of an online psychological treatment.


The process

Working with more than 1,000 people who live with anxiety, John and his team are looking at the effectiveness of E-Couch, an online psychological tool based on cognitive behavioural therapy principles.

Developed by researchers at the Australian National University, E-Couch includes modules on:

  • Exposure to anxiety
  • Improving attentiveness
  • Modifying thinking
  • Relaxation
  • Social skills.

E-Couch takes up to six weeks to complete. After that time, participants will be assessed for 12 months, with our team studying:

  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Quality of life
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Signs of depression.

Take part in research

Help improve self-help programs for anxiety

The potential

Huge numbers of people face the symptoms of anxiety every day – from difficulty sleeping to a constant sense of dread. 

This study will help us to understand more about the value and limitations of self-help for people who find themselves in this situation. And it will enable us to see whether the E-Couch tool can provide effective and lasting relief.

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