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

Barry Wright*, Lucy Tindall, Elizabeth Littlewood, Victoria Allgar, Paul Abeles, Dominic Trépel, Shehzad Ali

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


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 - Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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  • adolescents
  • computerised Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
  • depression
  • Randomised Controlled Trial


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