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A Pilot Double Blind Randomized Placebo Controlled Trial of a Prototype Computer-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Program for Adolescents with Symptoms of Depression

  • Karolina Stasiak (a1), Simon Hatcher (a1), Christopher Frampton (a2) and Sally N. Merry (a1)


Background: Depressive disorder is common in adolescents and largely untreated. Computers offer a way of increasing access to care. Computerized therapy is effective for depressed adults but to date little has been done for depressed adolescents. Aims: The objective of this study was to examine the feasibility, acceptability, and effects of The Journey, a computerized cognitive behavioural therapy (cCBT) program for depressed adolescents. Method: Thirty-four adolescents (mean age 15.2 years, SD = 1.5) referred by school counsellors were randomly assigned to either cCBT or a computer-administered attention placebo program with psychoeducational content (CPE). Participants completed the intervention at school. Data were collected at baseline, post-intervention and at a 1-month follow-up. The primary outcome measure was the Child Depression Rating Scale Revised (CDRS-R); secondary outcome measures were: RADS-2; Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory; Adolescent Coping Scale (short form); response and remission rates on CDRS-R. Completion rates and self-reported satisfaction ratings were used to assess feasibility and acceptabililty of the intervention. Results: Ninety-four percent of cCBT and 82% of CPE participants completed the intervention. Eighty-nine percent liked The Journey a lot or thought it was “okay” and 89% of them would recommend it for use with others as is or after some improvement. Adolescents treated with cCBT showed greater symptom improvement on CDRS-R than those treated with CPE program (mean change on cCBT = 17.6, CI = 14.13–21.00; CPE = 6.06, CI = 2.01–10.02; p< .001). Conclusions: It is feasible, acceptable and efficacious to deliver computerized CBT to depressed adolescents in a school setting. Generalizability is limited by the size of the study.


Corresponding author

Reprint requests to Karolina Stasiak, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand. E-mail:


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A Pilot Double Blind Randomized Placebo Controlled Trial of a Prototype Computer-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Program for Adolescents with Symptoms of Depression

  • Karolina Stasiak (a1), Simon Hatcher (a1), Christopher Frampton (a2) and Sally N. Merry (a1)
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