Reach and uptake of digital mental health interventions based on cognitive-behavioral therapy for college students: A systematic review

Laura D'Adamo, Layna Paraboschi, Anne Claire Grammer, Molly Fennig, Andrea K. Graham, Lauren H. Yaeger, Michelle G. Newman, Denise E. Wilfley, C. Barr Taylor, Daniel Eisenberg, Ellen E. Fitzsimmons-Craft

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Mental health problems are increasing in prevalence among college students, yet few students receive treatment due to barriers such as insufficient resources in college counseling centers. Digital mental health interventions (DMHIs) have potential to overcome barriers and offer accessible, evidence-based care to college students. However, to evaluate the true public health impact of evidence-based DMHIs, it is important to assess the reach and uptake rates of DMHIs on college campuses. Objectives: We conducted a systematic review to examine the reach (i.e., % of invited students who express interest) and uptake (i.e., % of enrolled participants who initiate an intervention) of DMHIs based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for college students. Methods: Eight databases were searched. Inclusion criteria included: (1) college population; (2) experimental design; (3) CBT-based intervention; (4) intervention targeting specific mental health conditions; and (5) digital intervention. Reach and uptake rates were calculated from data reported. A systematic narrative review framework was used to synthesize results. Results: Of 10,315 articles screened, 90 were included. Seventeen studies (19%) reported sufficient data to calculate reach; 35 studies (39%) reported uptake rates. Of studies that reported reach or uptake, most evaluated unguided (n = 20) or guided (n = 16) self-help programs. Measurement methods varied widely. Overall reach was low, whereas uptake was high among enrolled participants. Discussion: Despite evidence that improving reach and uptake can increase the public health impact of DMHIs, most studies did not report on either outcome. Suggested practices to improve these outcomes, and their reporting, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-117
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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