Internet-based treatment for adults with depressive symptoms: randomized controlled trial

E.H. Warmerdam, A. van Straten, J.W. Twisk, H. Riper, P. Cuijpers

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Background: Many depressed people do not receive help for their symptoms, and there are various barriers that impede help-seeking. The Internet may offer interesting alternatives for reaching and helping people with depression. Depression can be treated effectively with Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but a short intervention based on problem solving therapy (PST) could constitute a worthwhile alternative to CBT. Objective: In this study we evaluated the effectiveness of Internet-based CBT and Internet-based PST in comparison to a waiting list control group (WL), and we determined the differences between the two treatments. Methods: We conducted a 3-arm randomized controlled trial to compare CBT, PST, and WL. The main inclusion criterion was presence of depressive symptoms (≥ 16 on the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale). CBT and PST consisted of eight and five weekly lessons respectively. Participants were supported by email. Self-report measures of depression, anxiety, and quality of life were completed at pretest and after 5, 8, and 12 weeks. Results: A total of 263 participants were randomized to the three conditions (CBT: n=88; PST: n=88; WL: n=87). Of the 263 participants, 184 (70%) completed questionnaires after 5 weeks, 173 (66%) after 8 weeks, and 151 (57%) after 12 weeks. Between-group effect sizes for depressive symptoms were 0.54 for CBT after 8 weeks (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.25 - 0.84) and 0.47 for PST after 5 weeks (95% CI: 0.17 - 0.77). These effects were further improved at 12 weeks (CBT: 0.69, 95% CI: 0.41 - 0.98; PST: 0.65, 95% CI: 0.36 - 0.95). For anxiety, effect sizes were also at a medium level. Effect sizes for quality of life were low. The number of participants showing clinically significant change at 12 weeks was significantly higher for CBT (n = 34, 38.6%) and PST (n = 30, 34.1%), compared to WL (n = 0). Conclusions: Both Internet-based treatments are effective in reducing depressive symptoms, although the effect of PST is realized more quickly. Trial Registration: International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN): 16823487; ISRCTN16823487/16823487 (Archived by WebCite at 5cQsOj7xf). © Lisanne Warmerdam, Annemieke van Straten, Jos Twisk, Heleen Riper, Pim Cuijpers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e44-e44
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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