Open Access Study protocol

Internet-based self-help treatment for depression in multiple sclerosis: study protocol of a randomized controlled trial

Rosa E Boeschoten12*, Joost Dekker12, Bernard MJ Uitdehaag34, Chris H Polman3, Emma H Collette5, Pim Cuijpers26, Aartjan TF Beekman12 and Patricia van Oppen12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, VU University Medical Center Academic Anxiety Outpatient Clinic and GGZinGeest, A. J. Ernststraat 1187, Amsterdam, HL, 1081, The Netherlands

2 EMGO Institute for Mental Health and Care Research, VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 Department of Neurology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

4 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

5 Department of Medical Psychology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

6 Department of Clinical Psychology, VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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BMC Psychiatry 2012, 12:137  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-12-137

Published: 11 September 2012



Depression in MS patients is frequent but often not treated adequately. An important underlying factor may be physical limitations that preclude face-to-face contact. Internet-based treatment showed to be effective for depressive symptoms in general and could thus be a promising tool for treatment in MS.


Here, we present a study protocol to investigate the effectiveness of a 5 week Internet-based self-help problem solving treatment (PST) for depressive symptoms in MS patients in a randomized controlled trial. We aim to include 166 MS patients with moderate to severe depressive symptoms who will be randomly assigned to an Internet-based intervention (with or without supportive text-messages) or waiting list control group. The primary outcome is the change in depressive symptoms defined by a change in the sum score on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II). Secondary outcomes will include measures of anxiety, fatigue, cognitive functioning, physical and psychological impact of MS, quality of life, problem solving skills, social support, mastery, satisfaction and compliance rate. Assessments will take place at baseline (T0), within a week after the intervention (T1), at four months (T2) and at ten months follow-up (T3: only the intervention group). The control group will be measured at the same moments in time. Analysis will be based on the intention-to-treat principle.


If shown to be effective, Internet-based PST will offer new possibilities to reach and treat MS patients with depressive symptoms and to improve the quality of care.

Trial Registration

The Dutch Cochrane Center, NTR2772

Depression; Multiple sclerosis; Internet; Treatment; Randomized controlled trial