Recent evidence suggests that e-mental health interventions can be effective at improving mental health but that there is still a notable hesitation among patients to use them. Previous research has revealed that they are perceived by patients as being less helpful than face-to-face psychotherapy. The reasons for this unfavorable perception are, however, not yet well understood. The aim of our study was to address this question by eliciting preferences for individual components of e-mental health interventions in a discrete choice experiment. Using a stepwise qualitative approach, we developed the following 5 attributes of eMHIs, introductory training, human contact, peer support, proven effectiveness, content delivery, and price. Additionally, we asked questions about re- spondents’ demographics, attitudes, and previous experience of traditional psychotherapy, as well as their distress level. A total of 1984 respondents completed the survey. Using mixed logit models, we found that personal contact with a psychotherapist in blended care, proven effectiveness, and low price were highly valued by participants. Participants were indifferent toward the mode of content delivery but showed a slight preference for introductory training via phone, as well as for peer support via online forum alongside coach-led group meetings on site. Our results suggest a clear preference for blended care that includes face-to-face contact with a psychotherapist. This preference remained stable irrespective of sociodemographics, previous experience of psychotherapy, distress level, and the 2 context scenarios used in our discrete choice experiment. Further investigations looking at the potential benefits and risks of blended care are needed.
Data and code are publicly available through the open science framework: https://osf.io/af2rw/