Background: Depression is a leading cause of disability in adolescents, however few receive evidence-based treatment. Despite having the potential to overcome barriers to treatment uptake and adherence, there are very few CBT-based smartphone apps for adolescents. To address this gap, we developed ClearlyMe®, a self-guided CBT smartphone app for adolescent depression and anxiety. ClearlyMe® consists of 37 brief lessons containing core CBT elements, accessed either individually or as part of a 'collection'. Here, we describe the protocol for a randomised controlled trial aiming to evaluate the effect of ClearlyMe® on depressive symptoms and secondary outcomes, including engagement, anxiety and wellbeing, when delivered with and without guided support compared to an attention matched control.
Methods: We aim to recruit 489 adolescents aged 12-17 years with mild to moderately-severe depressive symptoms. Participants will be screened for inclusion, complete the baseline assessment and are then randomly allocated to receive ClearlyMe® (self-directed use), ClearlyMe® with guided SMS support (guided use) or digital psychoeducation (attention-matched control). Depressive symptoms and secondary outcomes will be assessed at 6-weeks (primary endpoint) and 4-months post-baseline (secondary endpoint). Engagement, conceptualised as uptake, adherence and completion, will also be assessed 6-weeks post-baseline. Mixed-effects linear modelling will be used to conduct intention-to-treat analyses to determine whether reductions in depressive symptoms and secondary outcomes are greater for conditions receiving ClearlyMe® relative to control at 6-weeks and 4-months post-baseline and greater for intervention adherers relative to non-adherers. To minimise risk, participants will be encouraged to use the Get Help section of the app and can also opt to receive a call from the team clinical psychologist at baseline, and at the 6-week and 4-month post-baseline assessments when reporting suicidal ideation.
Discussion: This is the first clinical trial examining a CBT smartphone app specifically designed for adolescent depression. It will provide empirical evidence on the effects of ClearlyMe® on depressive symptoms when used with and without guided support.
Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12622000131752).
Universal trial number: U1111-1271-8519.
Keywords: Adolescent; Anxiety; Cognitive behaviour therapy; Depression; Mobile application; Mobile health; eHealth.
© 2022. The Author(s).