Web-based interventions for youth internalizing problems: a systematic review

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014 Dec;53(12):1254-1270.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2014.09.005. Epub 2014 Sep 28.


Objective: To review published reports on Web-based treatment and prevention programs for depression, anxiety, and suicide prevention in children, adolescents, and emerging adults.

Method: A systematic search of the PsycINFO, PubMed, Medline, and Web of Science databases was conducted in December 2013. Programs were classified according to evidence-base level (Well-Established, Probably Efficacious, Possibly Efficacious, Experimental, and Of Questionable Efficacy).

Results: Of the 14,001 citations initially identified, 25 articles met inclusion criteria for Web-based interventions. These described 9 programs, of which 8 were Internet based and 1 was a mobile application. No Web-based interventions for suicide prevention were identified. Of the randomized controlled trials (n = 14) and open trials (n = 3) identified, 10 reported significant postintervention reductions in symptoms of depression and/or anxiety or improvements in diagnostic ratings, with small to large effect sizes. Many of these studies also reported significant improvements at follow-up. The methodological quality of the studies varied. Many programs were limited by their small sample sizes and use of waitlist or no-treatment control groups.

Conclusion: There is limited evidence for the effectiveness of Web-based interventions for youth depression and anxiety. Additional research and program development are needed to fill the current gaps in the literature.

Keywords: Web-based intervention; anxiety; depression; emerging adult.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / prevention & control
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Child
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Suicide Prevention*
  • Young Adult