Research & Evidence

XenZone’s strategic research arm, XenZone Alliance, has a primary role to help develop an evidence base for digital therapeutic support and early help models in therapeutic support, with digital embedded within this model.

XenZone Alliance executes research and evaluation into current XenZone service delivery tools and models, which extends from purely digital services in Kooth and Qwell, to blended/integrated models of support within a wider commissioner-led model.

Working with academic partners and key players in the field of mental health is crucial. Our research is conducted in collaboration with external partners to ensure the research and evaluation remains independent.

If you’re interested in finding out more or would like to collaborate on a future project, please get in touch.

Scaling Mental Health Services Through Digital Innovation

The urgent need for mental health services in the UK has never been greater. While we continue to firefight our way out of this growing crisis, we are ignoring what lays in store. Delays in care mean low-level issues are escalating and demand will rise further, leading to a serious deterioration of mental health and well-being in this country. Our chair and founder Elaine Bousfield argues that we need to innovate now to solve this crisis

The Door That Never Closes: How digital counselling can enable early intervention

Digital counselling is in the right place at the right time. Though established for over a decade, it now seems to have ‘come of age’ at a time when a lot is being asked of the NHS and as mental health has taken political centre stage.  Given the evidence for early intervention, and progress towards transformation, it is time to acknowledge the role online counselling and emotional wellbeing services must play in achieving universal service delivery at a time and place to suit the child or young person in need.

Online mental health support for young people

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has launched a report, offering a fascinating insight into the efficacy of online counselling for children and young people. The report focuses exclusively on Kooth online counselling, our user data (April 2016 – April 2017) along with feedback from Kooth users and commissioners.

Developing an evidence base for online counselling and support

XenZone has been involved in various research projects that have been published in peer-reviewed journals over recent years.  The first was with Dr Terry Hanley (Programme Lead for the PhD in Counselling Psychology and a highly renowned researcher), specifically in the field of online counselling for young people.  He has gone on to help develop and supervise other research projects on our service, Kooth.

Terry’s research investigated and identified the presence of a Therapeutic Alliance (a key factor in good outcomes for therapy) in online counselling, using Kooth. Read more.

Other research into outcomes of online counselling on Kooth include an investigation into the appropriate use of routine evaluation measures such as YP-CORE in online services.  This was published in the international journal, Pastoral Care in Education. Read more.

The findings in this work led to the development of a goal-based outcome (GBO) measure for online counselling, and the rationale for the use of a GBO.  We have developed our own, user friendly version of a GBO called CoGS (Counselling Goals System).  Read more.

This work has also culminated in a published peer-reviewed paper:

  • Hanley, T., Ersahin, Z., Sefi, A., & Hebron, J. (2016). Comparing Online and Face-to-Face Student Counselling: What Therapeutic Goals Are Identified and What Are the Implications for Educational Providers? Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools. DOI: 10.1017/jgc.2016.20. Publication link: 4f69d436-160c-4b72-98a6-9812bb48fcc9

And detailed in a recently published academic text book:

  • Hanley, T., Sefi, A., & Ersahin, Z. (2016). From Goals to Tasks and Methods. In M. Cooper & W. Dryden (Eds.), The Handbook of Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy (pp. 28–41). London: Sage.

 In this time, we have also contributed data and involvement to other research.  Our clinical lead conducted research into adolescent process, and why they use online services.  Read more.

We have also contributed as steering group members to the BACP Practice Research Network into counselling children and young people, which is developing an evidence base for youth counselling.  Read more.

Research into digitally supported therapy – a wider context

More explorative RCTs have also taken place in digitally supported therapy, mainly in cCBT some focussing on specific disorders such as body dysmorphia, but also with applications such as ClinTouch, SloMo and Sleepio and within self-help and peer-support contexts.  There has also recently been a Meta-review of DHIs (Digital Health Initiatives), looking primarily at cCBT.

Please see following titles for a brief selection of other research produced on online counselling for children and young people:

  • Dowling, M., & Rickwood, D. (2016). Exploring hope and expectations in the youth mental health online counselling environment. Computers in Human Behavior, 55, 62–68.
  • Glasheen, K.J., Shochet, I., & Campbell, M.A. (2016). Online counselling in secondary schools: would students seek help by this medium? British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 44(1), 108-122
  • Hanley, T. (2012). Understanding the online therapeutic alliance through the eyes of adolescent service users. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 12(1), 35–43.
  • Hanley, T & Reynolds, D 2009, ‘Counselling Psychology and the Internet: A review of the quantitative research into online outcomes and alliances within text based therapy‘ Counselling Psychology Review, vol 24, no. 2, pp. 4-13.
  • King, R., Bambling, M., Lloyd, C., Gomurra, R., Smith, S., Reid, W., et al. (2006). Online counselling: The motives and experiences of young people who choose the internet instead of face to face or telephone counselling. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research: Linking Research with Practice, 6(3), 169–174
  • Leibert, T., Archer, J., Munson, J., & York, G. (2006). An exploratory study of client perceptions of internet counselling and the therapeutic alliance. Journal of Mental Health Counselling, 28(1), 69–83
  • Ersahin, Z & Hanley T 2017, ‘Using text-based synchronous chat to offer therapeutic support to students: A systematic review of the research literature. Health Education Journal. Full journal article
  • Prescott J, Hanley T, Ujhelyi K Peer Communication in Online Mental Health Forums for Young People: Directional and Nondirectional Support. JMIR Ment Health 2017;4(3):e29 Full journal article

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