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

BMC Psychiatry. 2013 Feb 7;13:49. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-13-49.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cell Phone*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Computers
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Telemedicine / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult