Every mental health practitioner knows how vital psychoeducation is in therapy.
As a critical element of any treatment plan or care pathway, educating clients about relevant psychological concepts has always been an essential way for therapists to paint a complete picture or give context to any wellness journey.
But as blended care grows more popular, psychoeducational interventions have begun to look slightly different. While they’ve always been about informing and empowering clients, therapists and coaches are increasingly using specialized technologies to share more engaging and more meaningful messages with their clients.
In this article, we’ll explore what psychoeducational interventions look like in a digital context and how you can design your own educational tools using Quenza to help others feel better, make better progress toward their wellbeing goals, and grow in meaningful ways.
This Article Contains:
- What Are Psychoeducational Interventions?
- A Closer Look: Psychoeducational Interventions in Practice
- The Role of Technology
- How to Use Digital Psychoeducation in Therapy
- How to Design Psychoeducational Tools With Quenza
- A Step-By-Step Guide to Using Psychoeducational Interventions in Therapy
- 3 Examples of Psychoeducational Interventions
- 2 Templates to Customize
- A Take-Home Message
What Are Psychoeducational Interventions?
Psychoeducation is a professionally delivered process of informing and educating clients, patients, and other involved stakeholders about mental health conditions and the services associated with them.
Formally, it is defined as (Ekhtiari, Rezapour, Aupperle, & Paulus, 2017, p. 239):
… an intervention with systematic, structured, and didactic knowledge transfer for an illness and its treatment, integrating emotional and motivational aspects to enable patients to cope with the illness and to improve its treatment adherence and efficacy.
Historically, psychoeducational interventions have been used most heavily in clinical or pathological settings, with the primary goal of helping patients mentally process ‘challenging’ and potentially emotionally laden information (Lukens & MacFarlane, 2006).
Examples might include a patient’s diagnosis with a chronic health condition or mental health disorder, the latter having traditionally been associated with concerns about societal stigma.
A strengths-oriented approach
More recently, however, psychoeducation has played a much larger role as a competence-based approach to treatment and a strengths-oriented treatment modality that is very much focused on empowerment, client–practitioner collaboration, and positive coping strategies (Dixon, Goldman, & Hirad, 1999).
Through these interventions, therapists and practitioners can help clients, patients, and those involved in their care better understand the challenges they might face. They work conjunctively on using their internal resources to overcome obstacles on the journey to improved wellbeing.
A Closer Look: Psychoeducational Interventions in Practice
Psychoeducational interventions can form part of conventional therapy that takes place face-to-face or be implemented online as part of a blended care program.
For the latter, they will typically be delivered using e-therapy software such as Quenza to create an interactive and often media-rich learning experience that clients can engage with at their own convenience.
In both instances, they might involve verbal explanations or instruction from a therapist and cover video exercises, self-administered assessments, and guided meditations.
Through a variety of approaches, both in online and offline contexts, the overarching premise is to:
- Impart knowledge about a client’s potential challenges and experiences
- Equip participants with self-help or self-care skills and knowledge about their treatment or medication
- Create a psychologically safe environment where patients can reinforce their learning, expand their support networks, and/or practice their new skills, including with one-on-one psychoeducational interventions
- Improve the patient–therapist relationship so both parties can take an active part in the treatment process
By opening up possibilities through relevant content, online psychoeducational interventions can be a great way for therapists to activate patients and build engagement between sessions, improving treatment outcomes and quality of life (Bombard et al., 2018).
The Role of Technology
With psychoeducation in modern healthcare, digital or online interventions are a fast-growing area of interest for practitioners. Their efficacy as part of treatments for depression, anxiety, and various other mental disorders has been studied with a range of positive outcomes.
A randomized controlled trial established that online psychoeducational intervention was related to greater anxiety literacy, lower depression stigma, and increased help-seeking attitudes and intentions for young adults with mental health conditions (Taylor-Rodgers & Batterham, 2014).
A program of suicide psychoeducation was related to more effective participant positioning toward thoughts and emotions, primarily as participants learned exercises and gained more scientific knowledge on suicidal behavior through the intervention (Henrion et al., 2020).
In contrast to conventional counseling, e-therapy involves online interactions between a therapist and client. Such approaches make treatment available to those who cannot access, afford, or simply don’t wish to pursue in-person treatments, often giving them support and professional intervention when they might otherwise go without.
How to Use Digital Psychoeducation in Therapy
Psychoeducational interventions translate especially well to online settings, largely because knowledge transfer is the principal component of many such interventions and can be easily self-administered by a client.
Online psychoeducation can involve exercises, activities, and assessments from a range of established fields such as (Brown, Glendenning, Hoon, & John, 2016; Olthuis, Watt, Bailey, Hayden, & Stewart, 2016; Reiser, Murphy, & McCarthy, 2016):
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy as internet-based treatments
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
- Mindfulness, which might include MBSR or MBCT exercises like progressive relaxation or a body scan, as shown in the Quenza psychoeducational intervention below
There are many benefits to digital psychoeducational interventions. Therapists and practitioners can create these interventions from their own existing solutions using modern e-mental health software like Quenza.
Typical applications involve:
- Educating patients about their mental health conditions or symptoms at the start of a treatment plan
- Raising public awareness about wellbeing issues through outreach programs
- Building and maintaining client engagement with homework between sessions
- Providing walkthroughs for specific client exercises or activities
- Offering support for clients to access in the moment or on the go, such as a video to show breathing exercises for stress management
In the next section, we’ll look at how these come together using specialized blended care software.
How to Design Psychoeducational Tools With Quenza
There are various reasons why therapists prefer to design and share their own online psychoeducational interventions as alternatives or accompaniments to a traditional (in-person) approach, including:
- The capacity to create individualized interventions. By selecting the most relevant, interactive, or easy-to-use forms of media for a certain client, therapists can increase the likelihood that patients will engage with the material, thus improving their potential outcomes.
- Flexibility. With software such as Quenza, it’s possible to design an intervention template from existing resources, changing it only where essential to personalize an activity or exercise.
- Cost-effectiveness. Online psychoeducational tools are affordable to build and share in a private, secure, HIPAA-compliant manner using virtual channels. Rather than printing, publishing, and physically sending written content, creating digital activities is fast and efficient with a few ‘drags and drops.’
- More time with clients. Making interventions available online allows patients to work through the material at their own pace, freeing up in-session time for more focused and personal discussions with their mental health professional.
Giving clients the freedom to study or complete interventions on a connected mobile device also makes therapy more accessible, removing the potential costs and time involved in travel.
It is a combination of all these factors that contributes to the growing popularity of online therapy in stepped and blended care frameworks (Paris, 2013).
A Step-By-Step Guide to Using Psychoeducational Interventions in Therapy
Whether you plan to design interventions for a broader outreach strategy or for integration into a mental health treatment plan, the following practical guide outlines how to create and share individualized content from scratch or templates.
Designing customized content
Creating psychoeducational content with therapy software like Quenza is one of the first steps practitioners take when venturing into blended care or e-therapy for the first time.
In a psychoeducational context, this may involve customizing research-based scales and measures such as strengths assessments or video-based mindfulness training.
E-health platforms such as Quenza, which are developed for practitioners, offer a library of validated scales and popular assessments, as shown above. Personalizing or expanding on science-based measures typically removes a vast majority of the repetition involved in crafting individualized psychoeducational interventions.
Another popular approach to online intervention design involves building assessments, exercises, quizzes, surveys, and more from scratch:
Here, our therapist is using Quenza’s Activity Builder to create a unique psychoeducational self-help exercise for their client.
Creating custom content gives practitioners the advantage of incorporating media, scales, free-text boxes, and other interactive fields using specialized features for mental health professionals. Above, our therapist is combining a guided meditation for their client to access on their tablet or smartphone.
Psychoeducational content can then be integrated into treatment plans, which allows materials to be digitally shared with clients in a logical sequence.
Creating these can be as simple as choosing how many relevant steps to include, then customizing each individual intervention.
The Quenza screenshot above shows how coaching or care pathways can be quickly assembled by choosing existing intervention templates from a drop-down menu.
Here, the flexibility of online interventions becomes clearer in practice; this therapist can efficiently customize this intervention with their client’s name, with relevant instructions for a more engaging approach.
Interventions can be shared with a client as soon as they have completed an activity, or activities might be scheduled in advance as shown below:
As the screenshot illustrates, our therapist might begin a client’s coaching journey with an Intake Assessment. This would give them both adequate preparation time and a digital copy of the necessary information to individualize a pre-designed introduction activity before the therapy software automatically sends it seven days later.
For this specific coaching journey example, immediately after the client has watched the Introductory content, the client will be sent a Personal Goals activity.
This is an opportunity for the therapist to integrate informative material about the significance of goal setting in their coaching journey.
Ensuring compliance with HIPAA
As with any other telemental health solution, psychoeducational content should only be shared securely and privately in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
While it can be delivered as a standalone resource for clients, psychoeducational material typically forms part of a larger treatment plan, as shown above.
Using HIPAA-compliant software ensures that patient data remains confidential, private, and secure, even when accessed by a patient outside of their scheduled appointments.
Designed specifically for sharing e-mental health and online coaching content, specialized telehealth platforms such as Quenza come with electronic safeguards that automatically protect sensitive health information, protecting therapists and patients alike.
3 Examples of Psychoeducational Interventions
The value of psychoeducational interventions is that they can help clients understand broader psychological concepts, such as how values, mindsets, strengths, and emotional intelligence play important roles in positive psychology.
1. 20 Guidelines for Developing a Growth Mindset
Mindset interventions are especially versatile and can help clients who are dealing with a range of life or mental health challenges.
This resource, 20 Guidelines for Developing a Growth Mindset, introduces the reader to a set of practical principles that can help cultivate a more malleable view of their capabilities.
2. Universal Needs Inventory
When communication difficulties are a focus of therapy, such as in couple or family settings, interventions and activities frequently revolve around developing more adaptive self-expression skills.
Available in our PositivePsychology.com Toolkit, this comprehensive table can help clients get in touch with what they find necessary for a healthy and happy life. It can be used alone or as part of our Four-Step Nonviolent Communication Process.
3. Mindfulness Meditation Troubleshooting Guide
Meditation, breathing, and other mindfulness techniques are among the most versatile positive psychology interventions, lending themselves exceptionally well to depression treatment plans, stress-management programs, and therapies for anxiety.
The Mindfulness Meditation Troubleshooting Guide is a psychoeducational intervention that can help clients overcome the most common challenges of cultivating a meditation habit. Because participants are likely to practice meditation on their own, this is a great intervention to share digitally so that patients or clients can access it during their practice.
2 Templates to Customize
Here are two positive psychology interventions that are free to customize and versatile enough to be used as psychoeducational interventions in a range of contexts.
With Quenza’s $1, 30-day practitioner plan, these can be quickly adapted into a digital format and personalized for your clients.
1. Coping Skills Inventory
The Coping Skills Inventory was developed from research by Skinner and Zimmer-Gembeck (2007) to help clients develop positive coping strategies for challenging situations.
It outlines six core mechanisms, such as practicing self-love, grounding, and distraction, then invites participants to come up with their own examples to implement in practice.
2. Skills for Regulating Emotions
Skills for Regulating Emotions is designed as a psychoeducational resource for clients to use when building emotional skills. This handout and exercise explain how to refocus your thoughts and create time for positive experiences, and it includes a useful cognitive restructuring acronym from the field of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
A Take-Home Message
Psychoeducational interventions are great opportunities for mental health professionals to empower clients so they can become actively involved in their wellness journeys.
As more practitioners increasingly move beyond one-way knowledge transfer in favor of more interactive, engaging ways to deliver psychoeducation, blended care software is playing a much larger role in our service delivery models.
With today’s technology, we can now educate and inform those we help in more meaningful ways that maximize learning and facilitate positive, lasting behavior change, affecting our clients’ lives for the better.
What psychoeducational interventions do you most frequently use in your work? And how can you enhance your clients’ learning by delivering them digitally?
- Bombard, Y., Baker, G. R., Orlando, E., Fancott, C., Bhatia, P., Casalino, S., & Pomey, M. P. (2018). Engaging patients to improve quality of care: A systematic review. Implementation Science, 13(1), 98–120.
- Brown, M., Glendenning, A. C., Hoon, A. E., & John, A. (2016). Effectiveness of web-delivered acceptance and commitment therapy in relation to mental health and well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 18(8), e221.
- Dixon, L., Goldman, H., & Hirad, A. (1999). State policy and funding of services to families of adults with serious and persistent mental illness. Psychiatric Services, 50, 551–553.
- Ekhtiari, H., Rezapour, T., Aupperle, R. L., & Paulus, M. P. (2017). Neuroscience-informed psychoeducation for addiction medicine: A neurocognitive perspective. Progress in Brain Research, 235, 239–264.
- Henrion, A., Courtet, P., Arpon-Brand, V., Lafrancesca, A., Lacourt, L., Jaussent, I., … Ducasse, D. (2020). Pepsui, a psychoeducational program for the management of suicidal patients: A qualitative study from a randomized controlled trial. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, 500447.
- Lukens, E. P., & McFarlane, W. R. (2006). Psychoeducation as evidence-based practice. Foundations of Evidence-based Social Work Practice, 291, 205–225.
- Olthuis, J. V., Watt, M. C., Bailey, K., Hayden, J. A., & Stewart, S. H. (2016). Therapist‐supported Internet cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety disorders in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 3(5), CD011565.
- Paris, J. (2013). Stepped care: An alternative to routine extended treatment for patients with borderline personality disorder. Psychiatric Services, 64(10), 1035–1037.
- Reiser, J. E., Murphy, S. L., & McCarthy, C. J. (2016). Stress prevention and mindfulness: A psychoeducational and support group for teachers. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 41(2), 117–139.
- Skinner, E. A., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2007). The development of coping. Annual Review of Psychology, 58(1), 119–144.
- Taylor-Rodgers, E., & Batterham, P. J. (2014). Evaluation of an online psychoeducation intervention to promote mental health help seeking attitudes and intentions among young adults: Randomised controlled trial. Journal of Affective Disorders, 168(1), 65–71.