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Open Access Study protocol

Internet-based treatment for adults with depressive symptoms: the protocol of a randomized controlled trial

Lisanne Warmerdam*, Annemieke van Straten and Pim Cuijpers

Author Affiliations

Department of Clinical Psychology, Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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BMC Psychiatry 2007, 7:72  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-7-72

Published: 19 December 2007

Abstract

Background

Depression is a highly prevalent condition, affecting more than 15% of the adult population at least once in their lives. Guided self-help is effective in the treatment of depression. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of two Internet-based guided self-help treatments with adults reporting elevated depressive symptoms. Other research questions concern the identification of potential mediators and the search for subgroups who respond differently to the interventions.

Methods

This study is a randomized controlled trial with three conditions: two treatment conditions and one waiting list control group. The two treatment conditions are Internet-based cognitive behavior therapy and Internet-based problem-solving therapy. They consist of 8 and 5 weekly lessons respectively. Both interventions are combined with support by e-mail. Participants in the waiting list control group receive the intervention three months later.

The study population consists of adults from the general population. They are recruited through advertisements in local and national newspapers and through banners on the Internet. Subjects with symptoms of depression (≥ 16 on the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale) are included. Other inclusion criteria are having sufficient knowledge of the Dutch language, access to the Internet and an e-mail address.

Primary outcome is depressive symptoms. Secondary outcomes are anxiety, quality of life, dysfunctional cognitions, worrying, problem solving skills, mastery, absence at work and use of healthcare. We will examine the following variables as potential mediators: dysfunctional cognitions, problem solving skills, worrying, anxiety and mastery. Potential moderating variables are: socio-demographic characteristics and symptom severity. Data are collected at baseline and at 5 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 9 months after baseline. Analyses will be conducted on the intention-to-treat sample.

Discussion

This study evaluates two Internet-based treatments for depression, namely cognitive behavioral therapy and problem-solving therapy. The effectiveness of Internet-based problem-solving therapy suggest that this may be a worthwhile alternative to other more intensive treatment options. Strengths and limitations of this study are discussed.

Trial registration

Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN16823487