Improving the Course of Depressive Symptoms After Inpatient Psychotherapy Using Adjunct Web-Based Self-Help: Follow-Up Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial

J Med Internet Res. 2019 Oct 24;21(10):e13655. doi: 10.2196/13655.


Background: We recently showed in a randomized controlled trial that Web-based self-help as an adjunct improved the effectiveness of multimodal inpatient psychotherapy for depression.

Objective: The aims of this study were (1) to determine whether a Web-based self-help adjunctive to multimodal inpatient psychotherapeutic treatment could also improve the course of depressive symptoms and (2) to identify predictors of residual depressive symptoms at follow-up.

Methods: Overall, 229 patients were randomized either to the Web-based self-help intervention group (Deprexis) or an active control group (Web-based information about depression and depressive symptoms) in addition to multimodal inpatient psychotherapy. Participants in both groups were able to access their respective Web-based programs for 12 weeks, which meant that they typically had access after discharge from the inpatient unit (mean hospitalization duration: 40 days, T1). Follow-up was performed 6 months after study intake (T3).

Results: At follow-up, participants of the Web-based self-help group had considerably lower symptom load regarding depressive symptoms (d=0.58) and anxiety (d=0.46) as well as a better quality of life (d=0.43) and self-esteem (d=0.31) than participants of the control group. Nearly 3 times as many participants of the intervention group compared with the control group achieved remission in accordance with less deterioration. The number needed to treat based on the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) improved over time (T1: 7.84, T2: 7.09, and T3: 5.12). Significant outcome predictors were BDI at discharge and treatment group.

Conclusions: Web-based self-help as an add-on to multimodal inpatient psychotherapy improved the short-term course of depressive symptoms beyond termination. Residual symptoms at discharge from inpatient treatment and utilization of the Web-based self-help were the major predictors of depressive symptoms at follow-up. Challenges and barriers (eg, costs, therapists' concerns, or technical barriers) of adding Web-based interventions to inpatient treatment have to be addressed.

Trial registration: NCT02196896;

Keywords: aftercare; depression; inpatients; internet; mental health; psychology, clinical; psychotherapy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods*
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Self-Help Groups / standards*
  • Young Adult

Associated data