Computerised cognitive-behavioural therapy for depression in adolescents: feasibility results and 4-month outcomes of a UK randomised controlled trial

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OBJECTIVES: Computer-administered cognitive-behavioural therapy (CCBT) may be a promising treatment for adolescents with depression, particularly due to its increased availability and accessibility. The feasibility of delivering a randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing a CCBT program (Stressbusters) with an attention control (self-help websites) for adolescent depression was evaluated.

DESIGN: Single centre RCT feasibility study.

SETTING: The trial was run within community and clinical settings in York, UK.

PARTICIPANTS: Adolescents (aged 12-18) with low mood/depression were assessed for eligibility, 91 of whom met the inclusion criteria and were consented and randomised to Stressbusters (n=45) or websites (n=46) using remote computerised single allocation. Those with comorbid physical illness were included but those with psychosis, active suicidality or postnatal depression were not.

INTERVENTIONS: An eight-session CCBT program (Stressbusters) designed for use with adolescents with low mood/depression was compared with an attention control (accessing low mood self-help websites).

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: Participants completed mood and quality of life measures and a service Use Questionnaire throughout completion of the trial and 4 months post intervention. Measures included the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) (primary outcome measure), Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (MFQ), Spence Children's Anxiety Scale (SCAS), the EuroQol five dimensions questionnaire (youth) (EQ-5D-Y) and Health Utility Index Mark 2 (HUI-2). Changes in self-reported measures and completion rates were assessed by treatment group.

RESULTS: From baseline to 4 months post intervention, BDI scores and MFQ scores decreased for the Stressbusters group but increased in the website group. Quality of life, as measured by the EQ-5D-Y, increased for both groups while costs at 4 months were similar to baseline. Good feasibility outcomes were found, suggesting the trial process to be feasible and acceptable for adolescents with depression.

CONCLUSIONS: With modifications, a fully powered RCT is achievable to investigate a promising treatment for adolescent depression in a climate where child mental health service resources are limited.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere012834
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2017

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© 2017, The Author(s).

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