Treating Young Adult Depression With Text-Delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial

Michael J. Mason, J. Douglas Coatsworth, Nikola Zaharakis, Michael Russell, Dorothy Wallis, Aaron Brown, Christopher Hale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Young adults (ages 18 to 25) in the U.S. suffer from the highest rates of past-year major depressive episode and are the least likely to receive treatment compared to other age groups. As such, we examined the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of a text-message delivered cognitive behavioral therapy: CBT-txt with young adults. The study was a 2-month pilot RCT to test a 4-week intervention for depression that contained 197 text messages (average 12 texts every other day). The sample, recruited via Facebook and Instagram, was 102 U.S. young adults who presented with at least moderate depressive symptomatology. Assessments occurred at baseline prior to randomization and at 1 and 2 months post enrollment. The primary outcome, severity of depressive symptoms, was assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory II. Feasibility benchmarks were met and participants reported high levels of engagement with and acceptability of the intervention. Logistic regression indicated that treatment participants were three times as likely to have minimal or mild depression symptoms at 2 months compared to waitlist control participants. Latent change score modeling found that the strongest significant treatment effect appeared at the 1-month follow-up period, particularly for participants who began with severe depressive symptoms. Mediation analysis revealed significant indirect treatment effects of increases in behavioral activation on reducing depressive symptoms, suggesting a mechanism of change. Limitations were that the sample was relatively small and consisted of primarily women. These results provide initial evidence for the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of a text-delivered treatment for young adult depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-329
Number of pages15
JournalBehavior Therapy
Volume54
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023

Keywords

  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • depression
  • randomized clinical trial
  • text-delivered treatment
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology

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