Building Emotional Awareness and Mental Health (BEAM): A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of an App-Based Program for Mothers of Toddlers

Anna L. MacKinnon, Kaeley M. Simpson, Marlee R. Salisbury, Janelle Bobula, Lara Penner-Goeke, Lindsay Berard, Charlie Rioux, Gerald F. Giesbrecht, Ryan Giuliano, Catherine Lebel, Jennifer L.P. Protudjer, Kristin Reynolds, Shannon Sauer-Zavala, Melanie Soderstrom, Lianne M. Tomfohr-Madsen, Leslie E. Roos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Families have faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to increased maternal mental health problems and barriers to accessing care. Innovative programs are needed to support both maternal mental health and parenting, and to buffer the long-term impacts of stress on young children. Using a patient-oriented approach, our research team aimed to co-develop and pilot test an App-based psychoeducation and social-connection platform: Building Emotional Awareness and Mental Health (BEAM). Methods: The co-development process involved a parent advisory board from conceptualization and design, through to direct participation in the program delivery. The BEAM program includes weekly videos and activities based on Unified Protocol therapy modules and emotion-focused parenting strategies, a weekly telehealth group review session, and access to a private online forum for support from other mothers and clinical coaches. A parallel randomized control trial was conducted across two provinces in Canada. Mothers of preschool children (aged 18–36 months old), with moderate-to-severe depression (Patient Health Questionaire-9 ≥ 10), were recruited online and randomized to either the 10-week BEAM intervention or treatment as usual (TAU) control group. Online surveys (ensuring researcher blinding) included questions about feasibility and acceptability of the program and pre/post self-report measures of mental health, parenting, positive coping and child behavior outcomes. The primary outcome measures were symptoms of depression and parenting stress. Data were analyzed using mixed models and an intention-to-treat approach. Results: 65 participants were randomized, by an online allocation tool, to the BEAM (n = 33) and TAU (n = 32) groups. Engagement was relatively high at the beginning of the program, with 78.8% starting the BEAM App and 70.6% attending ≥1 telehealth session. Most respondents felt socially supported, satisfied with the App, and found it easy to use. Pre-post results indicated interaction effects with greater reductions in overall mental health problems, and specifically anxiety and sleep symptoms, among BEAM vs. control participants. There were also time effects with reductions in depression symptoms across both groups. No significant treatment effects emerged for the other mental health symptoms, parenting problems, positive coping, or child behavior outcomes. Descriptive data are included to highlight possible areas of promise for future large efficacy trials. Technological difficulties and other challenges that may have led to attrition and impacted outcomes are discussed. There were no adverse events related to study participation. Conclusions: The BEAM program has promise as a novel, feasible and acceptable intervention for improving mental health among mothers of young children. Clinical Trial Registration: [], identifier [NCT04772677].

Original languageEnglish
Article number880972
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - Jun 24 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by a Research Manitoba COVID-19 Rapid Response Operating Grant. AM was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship (#01353-000). CR was supported by the Postdoctoral fellowship from Research Manitoba and the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 MacKinnon, Simpson, Salisbury, Bobula, Penner-Goeke, Berard, Rioux, Giesbrecht, Giuliano, Lebel, Protudjer, Reynolds, Sauer-Zavala, Soderstrom, Tomfohr-Madsen and Roos.


  • digital health (eHealth)
  • emotion regulation
  • maternal mental health
  • parenting
  • randomized controlled trial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Building Emotional Awareness and Mental Health (BEAM): A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of an App-Based Program for Mothers of Toddlers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this