Randomized trial of a brief depression prevention program: an elusive search for a psychosocial placebo control condition

Behav Res Ther. 2007 May;45(5):863-76. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2006.08.008. Epub 2006 Sep 27.


This trial compared a brief group cognitive-behavioral (CBT) depression prevention program to a waitlist control condition and four placebo or alternative interventions. High-risk adolescents with elevated depressive symptoms (N=225, M age=18, 70% female) were randomized to CBT, supportive-expressive group intervention, bibliotherapy, expressive writing, journaling, or waitlist conditions and completed assessments at baseline, termination, and 1- and 6-month follow-up. All five active interventions showed significantly greater reductions in depressive symptoms at termination than waitlist controls; effects for CBT and bibliotherapy persisted into follow-up. CBT, supportive-expressive, and bibliotherapy participants also showed significantly greater decreases in depressive symptoms than expressive writing and journaling participants at certain follow-up points. Findings suggest there may be multiple ways to reduce depressive symptoms in high-risk adolescents, although expectancies, demand characteristics, and attention may have contributed to the observed effects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bibliotherapy / methods
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Placebo Effect
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotherapy, Brief / methods*
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists
  • Writing