Is self-guided internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy effective in treating depressive symptoms and which variables moderate treatment outcome?
In this meta-analysis of individual participant data from 3876 adults, internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy was more effective compared with controls. Adherence predicted better treatment outcomes within the experimental condition.
Self-guided internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy may be a viable alternative to current first-step treatment approaches for symptoms of depression, particularly in those individuals who are not willing to have any therapeutic contact.
Self-guided internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) has the potential to increase access and availability of evidence-based therapy and reduce the cost of depression treatment.
To estimate the effect of self-guided iCBT in treating adults with depressive symptoms compared with controls and evaluate the moderating effects of treatment outcome and response.
A total of 13 384 abstracts were retrieved through a systematic literature search in PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO, and Cochrane Library from database inception to January 1, 2016.
Randomized clinical trials in which self-guided iCBT was compared with a control (usual care, waiting list, or attention control) in individuals with symptoms of depression.
Data Extraction and Synthesis
Primary authors provided individual participant data from 3876 participants from 13 of 16 eligible studies. Missing data were handled using multiple imputations. Mixed-effects models with participants nested within studies were used to examine treatment outcomes and moderators.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Outcomes included the Beck Depression Inventory, Center for Epidemiological Studies–Depression Scale, and 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire scores. Scales were standardized across the pool of the included studies.
Of the 3876 study participants, the mean (SD) age was 42.0 (11.7) years, 2531 (66.0%) of 3832 were female, 1368 (53.1%) of 2574 completed secondary education, and 2262 (71.9%) of 3146 were employed. Self-guided iCBT was significantly more effective than controls on depressive symptoms severity (β = −0.21; Hedges g = 0.27) and treatment response (β = 0.53; odds ratio, 1.95; 95% CI, 1.52-2.50; number needed to treat, 8). Adherence to treatment was associated with lower depressive symptoms (β = −0.19; P = .001) and greater response to treatment (β = 0.90; P < .001). None of the examined participant and study-level variables moderated treatment outcomes.
Conclusions and Relevance
Self-guided iCBT is effective in treating depressive symptoms. The use of meta-analyses of individual participant data provides substantial evidence for clinical and policy decision making because self-guided iCBT can be considered as an evidence-based first-step approach in treating symptoms of depression. Several limitations of the iCBT should be addressed before it can be disseminated into routine care.
Eirini Karyotaki, Heleen Riper, Jos Twisk, Adriaan Hoogendoorn, Annet Kleiboer, Adriana Mira, Andrew Mackinnon, Björn Meyer, Cristina Botella, Elizabeth Littlewood, Gerhard Andersson, Helen Christensen, Jan P. Klein, Johanna Schröder, Juana Bretón-López, Justine Scheider, Kathy Griffiths, Louise Farrer, Marcus J. H. Huibers, Rachel Phillips, Simon Gilbody, Steffen Moritz, Thomas Berger, Victor Pop, Viola Spek, Pim Cuijpers. Efficacy of Self-guided Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the Treatment of Depressive SymptomsA Meta-analysis of Individual Participant Data . JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(4):351–359. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.0044