Randomized effectiveness trial of an Internet, pure self-help, cognitive behavioral intervention for depressive symptoms in young adults

Cogn Behav Ther. 2009;38(4):222-34. doi: 10.1080/16506070802675353.


This study evaluated an Internet-delivered, cognitive behavioral skills training program versus a treatment-as-usual (TAU) control condition targeting depression symptoms in young adults aged 18 to 24 years. Potential participants were mailed a recruitment brochure; if interested, they accessed the study website to complete an online consent and baseline assessment. Intervention participants could access the website at their own pace and at any time. Reminder postcards were mailed periodically to encourage return use of the intervention. The pure self-help intervention was delivered without contact with a live therapist. The primary depression outcome measure was the Patient Health Questionnaire, administered at 0, 5, 10, 16, and 32 weeks after enrollment. A small but significant between-group effect was found from Week 0 to Week 32 for the entire sample (N = 160, d = .20, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.00-0.50), with a moderate effect among women (n = 128, d .42, 95%C1 = 0.09-0.77). Greater depression reduction was associated with two measures of lower website usage, total minutes, and total number of page hits. Although intervention effects were modest, they were observed against a background of substantial TAU depression pharmacotherapy and psychosocial services. Highly disseminable, low-cost, and self-help interventions such as this have the potential to deliver a significant public health benefit.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00145054.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet / instrumentation*
  • Male
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Self-Help Groups*
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00145054