Evaluating the efficacy of CBT based mental health apps in the treatment of depression: a systematic literature review

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Krentz, Amber
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Background: Depression is a common mental health disorder afflicting a significant proportion of the population and has a negative impact on a person’s wellbeing. Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT) is a current first line treatment for depression and is typically delivered in person by a trained health care provider. There is growing demand for these services and a shortage of health care providers trained in CBT contributes to long wait times for accessing treatment. Other methods to deliver CBT have become of interest, such as self guided CBT based smartphone applications. There has been a rapid expansion in the number of these applications available with few studies conducted to determine their efficacy. Health care providers need to be aware if this intervention is a reliable modality which can be recommend for patients who struggle with depression. Objective: The purpose of this review was to assess extent research findings with regard to the effectiveness of CBT based smartphone applications in the treatment of depression. Methods: A literature search was performed using online databases PubMed, Scopus and PsycINFO. Relevant articles were screened and subjected to specific inclusion and exclusion criteria to determine eligibility. Results: A total of five articles were identified as eligible and reviewed. Four of the five studies reviewed demonstrated a significant reduction in depressive symptoms for their application intervention group. Findings were limited due to inconsistencies between studies which made generalizability of results difficult to interpret. Conclusions: CBT based smartphone applications for the treatment of depression appear to have some impact in reduction of depressive symptoms. However, due to limitations in study characteristics it is not possible to confidently drawn conclusions about their efficacy. Further research with improved, larger scale trials should be conducted to provide more substantial levels of evidence. Initial findings are promising that this modality may be used to reduce depressive symptoms in the appropriate subtype of patients who struggle with depression. .
Cognitive Behavioral therapy, Depression, smartphone application