Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

CBT for depression: a pilot RCT comparing mobile phone vs. computer

Sarah Watts, Anna Mackenzie, Cherian Thomas, Al Griskaitis, Louise Mewton, Alishia Williams and Gavin Andrews*

Author Affiliations

Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales at St Vincent’s Hospital, 394-404 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, NSW, Australia

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BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:49  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-49

Published: 7 February 2013

Abstract

Background

This paper reports the results of a pilot randomized controlled trial comparing the delivery modality (mobile phone/tablet or fixed computer) of a cognitive behavioural therapy intervention for the treatment of depression. The aim was to establish whether a previously validated computerized program (The Sadness Program) remained efficacious when delivered via a mobile application.

Method

35 participants were recruited with Major Depression (80% female) and randomly allocated to access the program using a mobile app (on either a mobile phone or iPad) or a computer. Participants completed 6 lessons, weekly homework assignments, and received weekly email contact from a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist until completion of lesson 2. After lesson 2 email contact was only provided in response to participant request, or in response to a deterioration in psychological distress scores. The primary outcome measure was the Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9). Of the 35 participants recruited, 68.6% completed 6 lessons and 65.7% completed the 3-months follow up. Attrition was handled using mixed-model repeated-measures ANOVA.

Results

Both the Mobile and Computer Groups were associated with statistically significantly benefits in the PHQ-9 at post-test. At 3 months follow up, the reduction seen for both groups remained significant.

Conclusions

These results provide evidence to indicate that delivering a CBT program using a mobile application, can result in clinically significant improvements in outcomes for patients with depression.

Trial registration

Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN 12611001257954

Keywords:
Cognitive behavioural therapy; Major depressive disorder; Mobile app; Internet treatment; Treatment