Online CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) has already proved effective for alleviating depression in adults. So, researchers from the Trimbos Institute in Utrecht, Netherlands explored whether an online course for depressed adolescents would be efficacious as well.
This randomized, controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of online treatment for depressed young people (ages 16-25) used for the intervention arm an online group course called Grip op Je Dip (Master Your Mood, or MYM).
The investigators randomly assigned 244 young people with depressive symptoms to the online MYM course or to a wait-list control condition. The primary outcome measure was the Center for Epidemiologic Studies’ Depression Scale, administered at 3 months and 6 months post-treatment.  Secondary outcomes were anxiety (measured by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) and mastery (Mastery Scale).

The MYM group (n = 121) showed a significantly greater improvement of depressive symptoms at 3 months than the control group (n = 123) (t(187) = 6.62, P < .001), with a large between-group effect size of d = 0.94 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.64-1.23).

The MYM group also showed greater improvement in anxiety (t(187) = 3.80, P < .001, d = 0.49, 95% CI 0.24-0.75) and mastery (t(187) = 3.36, P = .001, d = 0.44, 95% CI 0.19-0.70).
At 12 weeks, 56% (68/121) of the participants in the MYM group and 20% (24/123) in the control group showed reliable and clinically significant change. Improvements in the MYM group were maintained at 6 months.

(A limitation is the infeasibility of comparing the 6-month outcomes of the MYM and control groups, as the controls had access to MYM after 3 months.)

The researchers conclude that the MYM online group course was effective in reducing depressive symptoms and anxiety and in increasing mastery in young people. These effects persisted at 6 months.

Citation:  van der Zanden R, Kramer J, Gerrits R, Cuijpers P. Effectiveness of an online group course for depression in adolescents and young adults: a randomized trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2012 Jun 7;14(3):e86. [email protected]