A preliminary exploration of the feasibility and acceptability of a telephone-based mental health intervention for a clinical sample of adults aged 65+

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Christianson, Inga
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Mental health problems (depression, anxiety) and psychosocial challenges (loneliness, social isolation) are commonly experienced by Canadian older adults. Few programs target the combined experiences of these mental health and psychosocial challenges. The CONNECT Program is a novel six-session group-based telephone intervention that utilizes principles of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) to help older adults better understand themselves and these challenges. Before offering this program to this clinical population, we must evaluate the acceptability of The CONNECT Program for a clinical sample of older adults. A single group pre-post exploratory study was conducted to (1) evaluate the study design and procedures, (2) understand participant experiences in this program, (3) explore the preliminary effectiveness of this program in this sample. Participants (N = 3) were recruited with the help of geriatric mental health professionals in Manitoba. Participants completed telephone questionnaires before, during, and after the program. The study design and procedures were evaluated through documenting recruitment, dropout, and the administration of study components (e.g., screening, questionnaires). Reflexive thematic analysis was used to analyze participant responses to open-ended questions about their experience of the program. Changes in mental health symptoms were analyzed by comparing responses to self-report measures completed before and after the program. Challenges with recruitment and dropout were observed, but the study procedures were executed as anticipated. Themes derived from the qualitative analysis of participant experiences centered around elements participants appreciated about the program (support and connection, comfort and convenience, relevant material, facilitation), and elements to improve (missing visual information, left wanting more, challenges maintaining consistency). Themes captured changes that participants identified in themselves throughout the program (attention to the present moment, acceptance, self-compassion, goal setting), and perceptions of what led to these changes (group discussion, engagement with the material). Participants provided qualitative and quantitative feedback on what they would change about the program. Overall trends of improvement in mental health symptoms (anxiety, depression, psychological flexibility) were observed; However, research with a larger clinical sample is needed to further explore these trends. Future directions include testing this program using a larger clinical sample and modifying the program to fit their needs.
anxiety, depression, isolation, loneliness, intervention