Rapid Evidence Review of Digital Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adolescents With Depression

J Adolesc Health. 2022 Jul;71(1):14-29. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2022.01.220. Epub 2022 Mar 4.


Purpose: We conducted a rapid evidence review to explore the benefits and harms of digital cognitive-behavioral therapy (dCBT) and the barriers to and facilitators of implementing dCBT for adolescents.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CENTRAL through December 6, 2021, for controlled trials conducted in settings highly applicable to the United States. Additionally, we searched relevant systematic reviews for eligible studies. Results were summarized qualitatively.

Results: We included 12 trials (n = 1,575) that examined the effects of nine dCBT programs. Overall, dCBT was slightly superior to comparators in improving depression symptoms immediately post-intervention, but not at a longer follow-up. The use of dCBT did not appear to result in an increased risk for suicidal attempts or ideation; however, the number of events was very small. Potential barriers to implementing/maintaining dCBT are challenges engaging/retaining patients, developing infrastructure, and training therapists to facilitate dCBT. Data on harms or unintended negative consequences were not reported in the included studies.

Conclusions: A limited body of evidence suggests that dCBT programs might outperform control interventions for reducing depressive symptoms immediately post-intervention, but not at a longer follow-up. The safety of dCBT programs for adolescents with depression is understudied.

Keywords: Adolescent; Cognitive-behavioral therapy; Consumer health informatics; Depression; Digital; Health information technology; Internet; Online; Remote delivery; Suicide; Teens; Telemedicine; Teletherapy; dCBT; iCBT.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy* / methods
  • Depression* / therapy
  • Humans