Text Messaging and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression


This study aims to asses whether adding automated text messaging to group cognitive behavioral therapy for depression increases engagement which may lead to improved outcomes.

Full Title of Study: “Automated Text Messaging to Increase Engagement in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Depression”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Non-Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Health Services Research
    • Masking: None (Open Label)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: September 2016

Detailed Description

Background: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for depression is efficacious, but effectiveness is limited when implemented in low-income settings due to engagement difficulties including nonadherence with skill-building homework and early discontinuation of treatment. Automated messaging can be used in clinical settings to increase dosage of depression treatment and encourage sustained engagement with psychotherapy. Objectives: The aim of this study was to test whether a text messaging adjunct (mood monitoring text messages, treatment-related text messages, and a clinician dashboard to display patient data) increases engagement and improves clinical outcomes in a group CBT treatment for depression. Specifically, the investigators aim to assess whether the text messaging adjunct led to an increase in group therapy sessions attended, an increase in duration of therapy attended, and reductions in Patient Health Questionnaire-9 item (PHQ-9) symptoms compared with the control condition of standard group CBT in a sample of low-income Spanish speaking Latino patients. Methods: Patients in an outpatient behavioral health clinic were assigned to standard group CBT for depression (control condition; n=40) or the same treatment with the addition of a text messaging adjunct (n=45). The adjunct consisted of a daily mood monitoring message, a daily message reiterating the theme of that week's content, and medication and appointment reminders. Mood data and qualitative responses were sent to a Web-based platform (HealthySMS) for review by the therapist and displayed in session as a tool for teaching CBT skills.


  • Behavioral: Group CBT for Depression with MoodText
    • Mobile phone based text messaging to inquire about mood, cognitions, and behaviors on a daily basis.
  • Behavioral: Group CBT for Depression
    • Standard group CBT for depression using BRIGHT manual

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Experimental: Group CBT for Depression with MoodText’
    • Group cognitive behavioral therapy utilizing the BRIGHT manual for depression along with automated text messaging for mood monitoring and reminder of session content
  • Active Comparator: Group CBT for Depression
    • Standard group cognitive behavioral therapy utilizing the BRIGHT manual for depression

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • PHQ-9 Depression Symptoms
    • Time Frame: 16 weeks
    • The PHQ-9 (Patient Health Questionnaire – 9) is commonly used to screen for depression and to monitor progression of depressive symptoms over time. The scores represent the following depression severity: 0-4: minimal depression, 5-9: mild depression, 10-14: moderate depression, 15-19: moderately severe, 20-27: severe. A score of 10 is often recommended as the cut-off score for diagnosing an episode of depression that may require treatment.

Secondary Measures

  • Attendance
    • Time Frame: 16 weeks
    • Number of sessions attended
  • Duration of Therapy Attended
    • Time Frame: 16 weeks
    • Number of weeks until patients dropped out of therapy

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • Participation in CBT group at San Francisco General Hospital Exclusion Criteria:

  • Active suicidality – Active and severe psychosis

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 18 Years

Maximum Age: 100 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: No

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • University of California, San Francisco
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Sponsor
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Adrian Aguilera, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, University of California, San Francisco

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