Relative Effectiveness of CBT-Components and Sequencing in Indicated Depression Prevention for Adolescents: A Cluster-Randomized Microtrial

Marieke W.H. van den Heuvel*, Denise H.M. Bodden, Filip Smit, Yvonne Stikkelbroek, John R. Weisz, Mirjam Moerbeek, Rutger C.M.E. Engels

*Corresponding author for this work

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Objective: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was dismantled into four modules of three sessions each: cognitive restructuring (Think), behavioral activation (Act), problem solving (Solve) and relaxation (Relax). We investigated the modules’ relative effectiveness in indicated depression prevention for adolescents and examined variations in sequencing of these modules. Method: We performed a pragmatic cluster-randomized microtrial with four parallel conditions: (1) Think-Act-Relax-Solve (n = 14 clusters, n = 81 participants); (2) Act-Think-Relax-Solve (n = 13, n = 69); (3) Solve-Act-Think-Relax (n = 13, n = 77); and (4) Relax-Solve-Act-Think (n = 12, n = 55). The sample consisted of 282 Dutch adolescents with elevated depressive symptoms (Mage = 13.8; 55.7% girls, 92.9% Dutch). In total 52 treatment groups were randomized as a cluster. Assessments were conducted at baseline, after each module and at 6-month follow-up with depressive symptoms as primary outcome. Results: None of the modules (Think, Act, Solve, Relax) was associated with a significant decrease in depressive symptoms after three sessions and no significant differences in effectiveness were found between the modules. All sequences of modules were associated with a significant decrease in depressive symptoms at post-intervention, except the sequence Relax-Solve-Act-Think. At 6-month follow-up, all sequences showed a significant decrease in depressive symptoms. No significant differences in effectiveness were found between the sequences at post-intervention and 6-month follow-up. Conclusions: Regardless of the CBT technique provided, one module of three sessions may not be sufficient to reduce depressive symptoms. The sequence in which the CBT components cognitive restructuring, behavioral activation, problem solving and relaxation are offered, does not appear to significantly influence outcomes at post- intervention or 6-month follow-up. Abbreviations: CDI-2:F: Children’s Depression Inventory-2 Full-length version; CDI-2:S: Children’s Depression Inventory-2 Short version; STARr: Solve, Think, Act, Relax and repeat.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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