Development of a graphic medicine-enabled social media-based intervention for youth social anxiety

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Clinical Psychologist, 2020
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Objective: The objective of the Entourage project was to develop an innovative digital mental health intervention addressing key barriers experienced by young people in accessing evidence-based therapy for social anxiety. In particular, Entourage takes a specific focus on reaching young men, given their lower rates of service engagement. Method: This article discusses the theoretical underpinnings, therapeutic mechanisms, persuasive technology elements, and development process of a novel approach incorporating graphic medicine, clinical and peer support, and social networking. Results: Based on an integrated cognitive model of social anxiety disorder and consistent with the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a novel digital intervention for social anxiety was developed (Entourage). Using the moderated online social therapy (MOST) model, Entourage provides young people with a digital strengths-based platform to overcome social anxiety symptoms. Designed in close partnership with young people with a lived experience of mental ill-health, and overseen by a steering group of young men, Entourage applies graphic medicine through bespoke therapy comics to help users understand and overcome symptoms. Program e-mentors (expert clinicians and trained peer workers) work in tandem to maintain engagement, support participant skill acquisition, and promote opportunities for social connectedness. Behavioural experiments and in-vivo exposure activities facilitate restructuring of maladaptive social anxiety-focussed cognitions. Conclusions: Entourage represents an innovative approach to managing social anxiety in young people. Intervention elements seek to ensure longer-term engagement of users, in particular young men, who have unmet service needs. Results of a single-group clinical trial of Entourage are forthcoming.
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