Treating procrastination: Treatment delivered via the Internet VS. Group therapy

Procrastination is a common problem among university students, with at least half of the population reporting great difficulties initiating or completing tasks and assignments. Procrastination can have a negative impact on course grades and the ability to achieve a university degree, but can also lead to psychological distress. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is believed to reduce procrastination, but few studies have investigated its effectiveness in a regular clinical setting. The current study explored its effects using a pragmatic randomized controlled trial comparing treatment delivered during eight weeks as self-guided CBT via the Internet (ICBT) or as group CBT. In total, 92 university students with severe procrastination were included in the study (registered as a clinical trial on NCT02112383). Outcome measures on procrastination, depression, anxiety, and well-being were distributed at pre- and post-treatment as well as six-month follow-up. An outcome measure of procrastination was administered weekly. Linear mixed and fixed effects models were calculated, along with improvement and deterioration rates. The results showed that self-guided ICBT and group CBT yielded large within-group effect sizes on procrastination, Cohen’s d = 1.24-1.29, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) [0.76-1.74], and small to moderate benefits for depression, anxiety, and well-being, d = 0.37-0.68, 95% CI [-0.06-1.12]. In total, 33.7% were regarded as improved at post-treatment and 46.7% at follow-up. No differences between conditions were observed after the treatment period, however, participants in group CBT continued or maintained their improvement at follow-up, while participants in self-guided ICBT showed some signs of deterioration. The findings from the current study suggest that CBT might be an effective treatment for those struggling with severe procrastination, but that a group format may be better for some to sustain their benefits over time and that the clinical significance of the results need to be investigated further.

Read the full paper:

Rozental, A., Forsström, D., Lindner, P., Nilsson, S., Mårtensson, L., Rizzo, A., Andersson, G., & Carlbring, P. (In press). Treating procrastination using cognitive behavior therapy: A pragmatic randomized controlled trial comparing treatment delivered via the Internet or in groups. Behavior Therapy. DOI:10.1016/j.beth.2017.08.002

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