Publications by authors named "John Weisz"

169 Publications

Emotion regulation training as a treatment element for externalizing problems in adolescence: A randomized controlled micro-trial.

Behav Res Ther 2021 May 26;143:103889. Epub 2021 May 26.

Department of Developmental Psychology, Utrecht University, 80125, 3508, TC, Utrecht, the Netherlands. Electronic address:

Improving interventions for externalizing problems in adolescence may require determining which treatment elements actually produce change. In this micro-trial, we tested a treatment element addressing one widely-hypothesized mechanism underlying externalizing problems: emotion regulation. We tested whether emotion regulation could be improved via training, whether adolescents who received such training would subsequently show reduced externalizing problems, and which training approach and sequence was most effective. We randomized 108 adolescents with elevated externalizing problems (71.3% boys, M = 13.66, SD = 1.10) to a control condition or an experimental condition teaching emotion regulation through either a cognitive or behavioral approach, in alternated sequences. Effects of the modules were assessed before and after the modules, and with weekly assessments. The results showed a positive effect of the experimental training on self-reported use of adaptive emotion regulation strategies. However, self-reported externalizing problems decreased more in the control condition than in the experimental condition. No mediation, approach (cognitive versus behavioral) or sequence (cognitive-behavioral versus behavioral-cognitive sequence) effects were found. These findings illustrate that change in a proposed mechanism may not be accompanied by change in targeted problems; this highlights the importance of testing the hypothesized impact of specific treatment elements on targeted mental health problems. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial was registered in the Dutch Trial Register (NTR7334, July 10th, 2018) and the study protocol was published (te Brinke, Schuiringa, Menting, Deković, & de Castro, 2018).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2021.103889DOI Listing
May 2021

Effect of Shamiri Layperson-Provided Intervention vs Study Skills Control Intervention for Depression and Anxiety Symptoms in Adolescents in Kenya: A Randomized Clinical Trial.

JAMA Psychiatry 2021 Jun 9. Epub 2021 Jun 9.

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Importance: Low-cost interventions for adolescent depression and anxiety are needed in low-resource countries such as those in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Objective: To assess whether Shamiri, a 4-week layperson-delivered group intervention that teaches growth mindset, gratitude, and value affirmation, can alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms in symptomatic Kenyan adolescents.

Design, Setting, And Participants: This school-based randomized clinical trial included outcomes assessed at baseline, posttreatment, and 2-week and 7-month follow-up from 4 secondary schools in Nairobi and Kiambu County, Kenya. Adolescents aged 13 to 18 years with elevated symptoms on standardized depression or anxiety measures were eligible. Intent-to-treat analyses were used to analyze effects. Recruitment took place in June 2019; follow-up data were collected in August 2019 and February 2020.

Intervention: Adolescents were randomized to the Shamiri intervention or to a study skills control. All adolescents in both conditions met in groups (mean group size, 9) for 60 minutes per week for 4 weeks.

Main Outcomes And Measures: Primary outcomes were depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-8 item) and anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 item) symptoms. Analyses of imputed data were hypothesized to reveal significant reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms for adolescents assigned to Shamiri compared with those in the study skills group.

Results: Of 413 adolescents, 205 (49.6%) were randomized to Shamiri and 208 (50.4%) to study skills. The mean (SD) age was 15.5 (1.2) years, and 268 (65.21%) were female. A total of 307 youths completed the 4-week intervention. Both Shamiri and study skills were rated highly useful (4.8/5.0) and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, but analyses with imputed data revealed that youths receiving Shamiri showed greater reductions in depressive symptoms at posttreatment (Cohen d = 0.35 [95% CI, 0.09-0.60]), 2-week follow-up (Cohen d = 0.28 [95% CI, 0.04-0.54]), and 7-month follow-up (Cohen d = 0.45 [95% CI, 0.19-0.71]) and greater reductions in anxiety symptoms at posttreatment (Cohen d = 0.37 [95% CI, 0.11-0.63]), 2-week follow-up (Cohen d = 0.26 [95% CI, -0.01 to 0.53]), and 7-month follow-up (Cohen d = 0.44 [95% CI, 0.18-0.71]).

Conclusions And Relevance: Both the Shamiri intervention and a study skills control group reduced depression and anxiety symptoms; the low-cost Shamiri intervention had a greater effect, with effects lasting at least 7 months. If attrition is reduced and the clinical significance of outcome differences is established, this kind of intervention may prove useful in other global settings where there are limited resources, mental illness stigma, or a shortage of professionals and limited access to mental health care.

Trial Registration: Pan-African Clinical Trials Registry Identifier: PACTR201906525818462.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.1129DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8190694PMC
June 2021

Conducting global mental health research: lessons learned from Kenya.

Glob Ment Health (Camb) 2021 8;8:e8. Epub 2021 Mar 8.

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Mental health disorders are prevalent among youth and adolescents in low- and middle-income countries, and access to evidence-based treatments is poor. Although there is a great need for high-quality research to serve young people in low- and middle-income countries, there is limited guidance available for researchers who wish to conduct such work. Here, we describe our process of conducting school-based youth mental health work in Kenya over the last several years. We focus on five key lessons we learned that could guide future global mental health work with youth: (a) reducing stigma with strengths-focused interventions, (b) expanding access by working in schools, (c) generating buy-in from local stakeholders, (d) adapting the intervention via multicultural collaboration, and (e) applying insights from low- and middle-income countries to serve young people in high-income countries. We conclude by discussing how these lessons, and those shared by other teams, can be applied to help reduce the treatment gap for young people around the world.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/gmh.2021.7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8127636PMC
March 2021

Identifying intervention strategies for preventing the mental health consequences of childhood adversity: A modified Delphi study.

Dev Psychopathol 2021 05;33(2):748-765

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Exposure to childhood adversity is a powerful risk factor for psychopathology. Despite extensive efforts, we have not yet identified effective or scalable interventions that prevent the emergence of mental health problems in children who have experienced adversity. In this modified Delphi study, we identified intervention strategies for effectively targeting both the neurodevelopmental mechanisms linking childhood adversity and psychopathology - including heightened emotional reactivity, difficulties with emotion regulation, blunted reward processing, and social information processing biases, as well as a range of psychopathology symptoms. We iteratively synthesized information from experts in the field and relevant meta-analyses through three surveys, first with experts in intervention development, prevention, and childhood adversity (n = 32), and then within our study team (n = 8). The results produced increasing stability and good consensus on intervention strategy recommendations for specific neurodevelopmental mechanisms and symptom presentations and on strength of evidence ratings of intervention strategies targeting youth and parents. More broadly, our findings highlight how intervention decision making can be informed by meta-analyses, enhanced by aggregate group feedback, saturated before consensus, and persistently subjective or even contradictory. Ultimately, the results converged on several promising intervention strategies for prevention programming with adversity-exposed youth, which will be tested in an upcoming clinical trial.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579420002059DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8139285PMC
May 2021

Modular Psychotherapy Outcomes for Youth With Different Latent Profiles of Irritability and Emotion Dysregulation.

Front Psychiatry 2021 16;12:618455. Epub 2021 Apr 16.

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, United States.

Severe irritability is a common, impairing problem among youth referred for mental health services, but evidence to guide care is limited. Treatment research can be advanced by adopting a transdiagnostic perspective, leveraging existing evidence-based treatment (EBT) techniques, and situating irritability within the context of emotion dysregulation. Accordingly, this study examined treatment outcomes for youth with different levels of irritability and dysregulation who received cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or behavioral parent training (BPT) in a modular EBT framework. We analyzed data from a community-based implementation trial of a transdiagnostic youth psychotherapy. Two-hundred treatment-referred youths (7-15 years; 47% female; 33% White, 28% Black, 24% Latinx, 14% multiracial, 2% other) and their caregivers completed measures of clinical problems and emotion dysregulation at baseline, with repeated outcomes assessments over 18 months. First, latent profile analysis was applied to baseline irritability and emotion dysregulation data; then, latent growth curve models were used to examine outcome trajectories, controlling for covariates. A two-class solution fit well, differentiating youth with high ( = 54) vs. low ( = 146) levels of dysregulation and irritability at baseline. Nearly all high-dysregulation youth received either BPT ( = 26) or CBT-Depression ( = 23). Across measures, both groups showed statistically and clinically significant improvements over time. High-dysregulation youth had greater baseline severity than low-dysregulation youth, but otherwise their longitudinal trajectories were mostly similar, with few between-group slope differences. There was virtually no evidence of differential effects for BPT vs. CBT on clinical outcomes. Youth with severe irritability and dysregulation, treated with a transdiagnostic, modular, EBT approach, showed significant within-person improvements over time. Their outcome trajectories did not differ according to whether they received BPT or CBT. Findings extend the literature on modular, transdiagnostic, and EBT approaches for irritability and dysregulation, suggesting comparable benefits associated with BPT and CBT when treatment selection is guided by comprehensive assessment. www.ClinicalTrials.gov, identifier: NCT03153904.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.618455DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8086835PMC
April 2021

Are therapist adherence and competence related to clinical outcomes in cognitive-behavioral treatment for youth anxiety?

J Consult Clin Psychol 2021 Mar;89(3):188-199

Department of Psychology.

Introduction: Studies have found that psychological treatments produce positive clinical outcomes for many problems experienced by youth. However, there is limited research on whether therapist adherence and competence in delivering these treatments are related to differential clinical outcomes.

Method: We examined the relationship of therapist adherence and competence to clinical outcomes in a sample of 51 youth aged 7-14 years (M age = 10.36, SD = 1.90; 86.3% white; 60.8% male) treated for anxiety disorders with a manualized individual cognitive-behavioral therapy. Adherence and competence were measured via coding of recorded treatment session content and outcomes were measured by caregiver and youth report across multiple timepoints. We used two-level mixed-effects regression models to test the degree to which adherence and competence predicted differential youth clinical outcomes.

Results: Across multiple caregiver- and child-reported symptom and diagnostic outcomes, we found no statistically significant relationship between adherence or competence and clinical outcomes.

Discussion: Although there was variability in both treatment integrity and clinical outcome, neither adherence to nor competence in youth anxiety treatment was related to clinical outcomes for youth with anxiety disorders treated with individual cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) in a research clinic-based efficacy trial. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000538DOI Listing
March 2021

Complementing standard Western measures of depression with locally co-developed instruments: A cross-cultural study on the experience of depression among the Luo in Kenya.

Transcult Psychiatry 2021 Apr 4:13634615211000555. Epub 2021 Apr 4.

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Our present understanding of depression relies on a Western nosology that might not be generalizable across diverse cultures around the world. As a consequence, current clinical research and practice may not capture culturally salient features of depression. Expanded cross-cultural research that uses ethnographic methods and local instruments may yield information of clinical utility to enhance culturally sensitive research and practice. In this mixed methods study, we used ethno-semantic interview procedures based on the 's cultural formulation process to elicit a broad range of depression features reported by the Luo people of western Kenya. We identified how the Luo conceptualize depression, including idioms of depressive distress, moods associated with persistent negative affect, and other features including context, stressors and support systems. This information informed the co-development of a Luo Depression Questionnaire (LDQ-17). We used the LDQ-17 in a cross-sectional community survey ( = 116) to investigate its association with a standard Western instrument (Patient Health Questionnaire-9; PHQ-9). Factor analysis revealed a one-factor model for the PHQ-9 but not the LDQ-17 for which exploratory factor analysis suggested a three-factor model including cognitive, affective, and physical symptoms. Psychological, environmental/social, and even supernatural causes (i.e., ancestors, God and devil) of these symptoms were identified, as were support systems. Finally, visualizations through multidimensional scaling approaches showed some overlap between the LDQ-17 and the PHQ-9, but the local LDQ-17 identified salient features the Luo associated with depression that the PHQ-9 missed. Our findings illustrate how simple ethnographic procedures may guide the development of local instruments to complement current standardized instruments, potentially enhancing cultural relevance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/13634615211000555DOI Listing
April 2021

Evaluating a Modular Approach to Therapy for Children With Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, or Conduct Problems (MATCH) in School-Based Mental Health Care: Study Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial.

Front Psychol 2021 5;12:639493. Epub 2021 Mar 5.

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, United States.

Schools have become a primary setting for providing mental health care to youths in the U.S. School-based interventions have proliferated, but their effects on mental health and academic outcomes remain understudied. In this study we will implement and evaluate the effects of a flexible multidiagnostic treatment called Modular Approach to Therapy for Children with Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, or Conduct Problems (MATCH) on students' mental health and academic outcomes. This is an assessor-blind randomized controlled effectiveness trial conducted across five school districts. School clinicians are randomized to either MATCH or usual care (UC) treatment conditions. The target sample includes 168 youths (ages 7-14) referred for mental health services and presenting with elevated symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma, and/or conduct problems. Clinicians randomly assigned to MATCH or UC treat the youths who are assigned to them through normal school referral procedures. The project will evaluate the effectiveness of MATCH compared to UC on youths' mental health and school related outcomes and assess whether changes in school outcomes are mediated by changes in youth mental health. This study was approved by the Harvard University Institutional Review Board (IRB14-3365). We plan to publish the findings in peer-reviewed journals and present them at academic conferences. ClinicalTrials.gov ID: NCT02877875. Registered on August 24, 2016.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.639493DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7973266PMC
March 2021

Leveraging the developmental science of psychosocial risk to strengthen youth psychotherapy.

Dev Psychopathol 2021 05;33(2):670-683

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.

More than 50 years of randomized clinical trials for youth psychotherapies have resulted in moderate effect sizes for treatments targeting the most common mental health problems in children and adolescents (i.e., anxiety, depression, conduct problems, and attention disorders). Despite having psychotherapies that are effective for many children, there has been a dearth of progress in identifying the contextual factors that likely influence who will respond to a given psychotherapy, and under what conditions. The developmental psychopathology evidence base consistently demonstrates that psychosocial risk exposures (e.g., childhood adversities, interpersonal stressors, family dysfunction) significantly influence the onset and course of youth psychopathology. However, the developmental psychopathology framework remains to be well integrated into treatment development and psychotherapy research. We argue that advances in basic developmental psychopathology research carry promising implications for the design and content of youth psychotherapies. Research probing the effects of psychosocial risks on youth development can enrich efforts to identify contextual factors in psychotherapy effectiveness and to personalize treatment. In this article we review empirically supported and hypothesized influences of individual- and family-level risk factors on youth psychotherapy outcomes, and we propose a framework for leveraging developmental psychopathology to strengthen psychotherapies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579420002035DOI Listing
May 2021

A Meta-analytic Review: Psychological Treatment of Subthreshold Depression in Children and Adolescents.

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2021 Feb 14. Epub 2021 Feb 14.

Amsterdam Public Health research institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Objective: Subthreshold depression has been found to be associated with considerable impairment and an increased risk of developing major depression. Although several randomized trials have examined the effects of psychological interventions for subthreshold depression in children and adolescents, no meta-analysis has integrated the results of these trials.

Method: We searched 4 bibliographic databases and included randomized trials comparing psychological interventions with control conditions in children and adolescents scoring above a cut-off of a depression questionnaire but not meeting diagnostic criteria for major depression (or persistent depressive disorder) according to a diagnostic interview. Effect sizes and incidence rates of major depression were pooled with random effects meta-analyses.

Results: A total of 12 trials with 1,576 children and adolescents met inclusion criteria. The overall effect size indicating the difference between treatment and control at post-test was g = 0.38 (95% CI = 0.14-0.63), which corresponds to a number-needed-to-treat (NNT) of 8.4. Heterogeneity was moderate to high (I = 61; 95% CI = 28-79), and there was significant risk of publication bias (p < .04). The 2 studies in children less than 12 years of age showed nonsignificant effects (g = 0.01; 95% CI = -1.16 to 1.18). We found no significant effect on the incidence of major depression at follow-up (relative risk = 0.52; 95% CI = 0.25-1.08), although this may be related to low statistical power.

Conclusion: Interventions for subthreshold depression may have positive acute effects in adolescents. There is currently insufficient evidence, however, that these interventions are effective in children less than 12 years of age, or that they prevent the onset of major depression at follow-up.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2020.11.024DOI Listing
February 2021

Smartphone apps for eating disorders: A systematic review of evidence-based content and application of user-adjusted analyses.

Int J Eat Disord 2021 May 3;54(5):690-700. Epub 2021 Feb 3.

Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

Objective: To examine the frequency of evidence-based treatment elements in popular smartphone apps for eating disorders (EDs), and to characterize the extent to which real-world users encounter different elements.

Method: We searched the Apple App Store and Google Play Store for apps offering treatment or support to individuals with EDs. Then, we created a codebook of 47 elements found in evidence-based treatments for EDs. We examined the presence or absence of each element within each ED app. We also acquired estimates of the monthly active users (MAU) of each app.

Results: The ED apps (n = 28) included a median of nine elements of empirically supported treatments (mean = 9.46, SD = 6.28). Four apps accounted for 96% of all MAU. MAU-adjusted analyses revealed that several elements are reaching more users than raw frequency tallies would suggest. For example, assessments were included in 32% of apps, but 84% of users used an app with assessments. Similar trends were found for cognitive restructuring (21% of apps, 56% of MAU), activity scheduling (39%, 57%), and self-monitoring (14%, 46%). Problem solving, exposure, and relapse prevention strategies, elements that are prominent in face-to-face empirically supported treatments, were rarely included in the apps.

Discussion: Evidence-based content is commonly included in ED apps, with certain elements reaching more users than others. Additionally, the top four apps are responsible for nearly all active users. We recommend that ED clinicians and researchers familiarize themselves with these apps-those that patients are most likely to encounter.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/eat.23478DOI Listing
May 2021

In Their Own Words: Using Open-Ended Assessment to Identify Culturally Relevant Concerns among Kenyan Adolescents.

Cult Med Psychiatry 2021 Feb 2. Epub 2021 Feb 2.

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA.

Standardized assessment tools developed in western contexts may systematically miss certain problems that are considered important in non-western cultures. In this mixed-methods study, we used an open-ended assessment tool (the Top Problem Assessment; TPA) to identify culturally relevant concerns among low-income Kenyan youth. We then (a) applied thematic analysis to identify the most frequently reported problems and (b) examined the extent to which these problems were reflected in standardized mental health measures. Using the TPA, we identified common social, academic, and economic problems facing Kenyan youths. Specifically, 61% of the sample reported a social problem, 38% an academic problem, and 35% an economic problem. By contrast, the standardized assessments revealed that worrying and difficulty concentrating were the most commonly reported symptoms. However, the emotional and behavioral problems assessed via the standardized measures were only reported as top problems by 17% of the sample. Overall, our findings are consistent with the idea that standardized measures can miss certain culturally-salient concerns that can be acquired through open-ended assessments. We discuss how brief open-ended assessment tools could complement standardized measures, inform the development of culturally relevant standardized measures, and offer rich data about the experiences of people in understudied cultural contexts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11013-020-09706-1DOI Listing
February 2021

Treatment of depression in children and adolescents - Authors' reply.

Lancet Psychiatry 2021 02;8(2):97-98

Department of Neurology, Chongqing, China. Electronic address:

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30537-XDOI Listing
February 2021

Addressing the Long-term Effects of Maternal Depression Through Early Intervention.

Res Child Adolesc Psychopathol 2021 May;49(5):579-582

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10802-020-00740-6DOI Listing
May 2021

Clinician training, then what? Randomized clinical trial of child STEPs psychotherapy using lower-cost implementation supports with versus without expert consultation.

J Consult Clin Psychol 2020 Dec;88(12):1065-1078

Department of Psychology, Harvard University.

Objective: Implementation of evidence-based treatments in funded trials is often supported by expert case consultation for clinicians; this may be financially and logistically difficult in clinical practice. Might less costly implementation support produce acceptable treatment fidelity and clinical outcomes?

Method: To find out, we trained 42 community clinicians from four community clinics in Modular Approach to Therapy for Children (MATCH), then randomly assigned them to receive multiple lower-cost implementation supports (LC) or expert MATCH consultation plus lower-cost supports (CLC). Clinically referred youths (N = 200; ages 7-15 years, M = 10.73; 53.5% male; 32.5% White, 27.5% Black, 24.0% Latinx, 1.0% Asian, 13.5% multiracial, 1.5% other) were randomly assigned to LC (n = 101) or CLC (n = 99) clinicians, and groups were compared on MATCH adherence and competence, as well as on multiple clinical outcomes using standardized measures (e.g., Child Behavior Checklist, Youth Self-Report) and idiographic problem ratings (Top Problems Assessment).

Results: Coding of therapy sessions revealed substantial therapist adherence to MATCH in both conditions, with significantly stronger adherence in CLC; however, LC and CLC did not differ significantly in MATCH competence. Trajectories of change on all outcome measures were steep, positive, and highly similar for LC and CLC youths, with no significant differences; a supplemental analysis of posttreatment outcomes also showed similar LC and CLC posttreatment scores, with most LC-CLC differences nonsignificant.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that effective implementation of a complex intervention in clinical practice may be supported by procedures that are less costly and logistically challenging than expert consultation. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000536DOI Listing
December 2020

The effectiveness and acceptability of empirically supported treatments in gender minority youth across four randomized controlled trials.

J Consult Clin Psychol 2020 Dec;88(12):1053-1064

Department of Psychology, Harvard University.

Objective: Gender minority youth (i.e., children/adolescents whose gender identity and/or expression is inconsistent with their birth-assigned sex) experience elevated rates of emotional and behavioral problems relative to cisgender youth (who identify with their birth-assigned sex), which are not intrinsic to gender identity but attributable to unique minority stressors. Although empirically supported treatments have proven effective in treating these mental health concerns generally, randomized controlled trials have not examined effects for gender minority youth.

Method: To address this gap, we pooled data from clinically referred youth (N = 432; M(SD)age = 10.6(2.2); 55.1% White) assigned to empirically supported treatment conditions across four previous randomized controlled trials of modular psychotherapy. A proxy indicator of gender identity (i.e., youth's wish to be the opposite sex) was used to classify gender minority (n = 64) and cisgender (n = 368) youth. Youth- and caregiver-reported pretreatment internalizing and externalizing problems, treatment effectiveness on these domains, and treatment acceptability were compared across groups.

Results: Gender minority youth reported more severe pretreatment internalizing and externalizing problems compared to cisgender youth; in contrast, their caregivers reported less severe problems. Although treatment was equally effective for both groups on most outcomes, gender minority youth's caregiver-reported externalizing problems improved more slowly and less reliably, and their self-reported internalizing problems were more likely to remain clinically elevated. Furthermore, gender minority youth reported lower treatment satisfaction.

Conclusions: While findings suggest that empirically supported treatments may effectively address many mental health problems for gender minority youth, they also underscore the need for treatment enhancements that improve acceptability and outcomes. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000597DOI Listing
December 2020

The Shamiri group intervention for adolescent anxiety and depression: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial of a lay-provider-delivered, school-based intervention in Kenya.

Trials 2020 Nov 23;21(1):938. Epub 2020 Nov 23.

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Background: Developing low-cost, socio-culturally appropriate, and scalable interventions for youth depression and anxiety symptoms in low-income regions such as countries in sub-Saharan Africa is a global mental health priority. We developed and intend to evaluate one such intervention for adolescent depression and anxiety in Kenya. The intervention, named Shamiri (a Swahili word for "thrive"), draws upon evidence-based components of brief interventions that involve nonclinical principles rather than treatment of psychopathology (e.g., growth mindset, gratitude, and virtues).

Methods: Four hundred twenty Kenyan adolescents (ages 13-18) with clinically elevated depression and/or anxiety symptoms will be randomized to either the 4-week Shamiri group intervention or a group study-skills control intervention of equal duration and dosage. Participating adolescents will meet in groups of 8-15, led by a high-school graduate trained to deliver Shamiri as a lay-provider. Adolescents will self-report primary outcome measures (depression-measured by the PHQ-8, and anxiety symptoms-measured by the GAD-7) and secondary outcome measures (perceived social support, perceived academic control, self-reported optimism and happiness, loneliness, and academic grades) at the 2-week intervention midpoint, 4-week post-intervention endpoint, and 2-week post-intervention follow-up. We predict that adolescents in the Shamiri group, when compared to the study-skills control group, will show greater improvements in primary outcomes and secondary outcomes.

Discussion: Results may suggest that a brief, lay-provider delivered, school-based intervention may reduce depression and anxiety symptoms, improving academic outcomes and other psychosocial outcomes in adolescents with clinically-elevated symptoms in sub-Saharan Africa.

Trial Registration: Pan African Clinical Trials Registry PACTR201906525818462 . Registered on 12 June 2019.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13063-020-04732-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7682107PMC
November 2020

Where is the global in global mental health? A call for inclusive multicultural collaboration.

Gen Psychiatr 2020 5;33(6):e100351. Epub 2020 Nov 5.

Africa Mental Health Research and Training Foundation, Nairobi, Kenya.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/gpsych-2020-100351DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7646349PMC
November 2020

Using Mixed Methods to Identify the Primary Mental Health Problems and Needs of Children, Adolescents, and Their Caregivers during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic.

Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 2020 Oct 27. Epub 2020 Oct 27.

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street #1036, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Our understanding of child, adolescent, and caregiver mental health (MH) problems during the coronavirus pandemic, and which interventions are needed, may be advanced by consumer input. 133 general population caregivers reported top MH problems and needs for themselves and their children (M = 8.21; SD = 4.94), using standardized and idiographic measures. We applied linear regression models to quantitative data and thematic analysis to qualitative data. Caregivers' COVID-era depression and anxiety symptom means fell within the clinical range, as did their children's MH symptoms. Caregiver-reported child and adolescent symptoms were positively associated with number of children in the home. Caregiver and caregiver-reported child and adolescent symptoms were more pronounced in regions with more lenient COVID-19 restrictions. Among the kinds of help most urgently needed, MH services were ranked #1 for caregivers and adolescents, #2 for 6-12 year-olds, and #3 for 1-5 year-olds. Top problems identified for each age group highlight pressing pandemic-related intervention targets.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10578-020-01089-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7590914PMC
October 2020

Examining How CBT Interventions for Anxious Youth Are Delivered Across Settings.

Behav Ther 2020 11 27;51(6):856-868. Epub 2019 Nov 27.

Harvard University.

Most efforts to assess treatment integrity-the degree to which a treatment is delivered as intended-have conflated content (i.e., therapeutic interventions) and delivery (i.e., strategies for conveying the content, such as modeling). However, there may be value in measuring content and delivery separately. This study examined whether the quantity (how much) and quality (how well) of delivery strategies for individual cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) for youth anxiety varied when the same evidence-based treatment was implemented in research and community settings. Therapists (N = 29; 69.0% White; 13.8% male) provided ICBT to 68 youths (M age = 10.60 years, SD = 2.03; 82.4% white; 52.9% male) diagnosed with a principal anxiety disorder in research or community settings. Training and supervision protocols for therapists were comparable across settings. Two independent teams of trained coders rated 744 sessions using observational instruments designed to assess the quantity and quality of delivery of interventions found in ICBT approaches. Overall, both the quantity and quality of delivery of interventions found in ICBT approaches were significantly lower in the community settings. The extent to which didactic teaching, collaborative teaching, and rehearsal were used systematically varied over the course of treatment. In general, differences in the quantity and quality of delivery observed between settings held when differences in youth characteristics between settings were included in the model. Our findings suggest the potential relevance of measuring how therapists deliver treatment separate from the content.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2019.11.008DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7573192PMC
November 2020

After the Study Ends: A Qualitative Study of Factors Influencing Intervention Sustainability.

Prof Psychol Res Pr 2020 Apr 18;51(2):134-144. Epub 2019 Jul 18.

Harvard University.

Sustaining evidence-based practices after initial training and support has ended is necessary to ensure lasting improvements in youth mental health services. This study examined factors impacting community clinicians' decisions to sustain a transdiagnostic youth intervention following participation in a study. The aim of the study was to identify potentially mutable factors impacting sustainability to inform future implementation efforts. Thirteen clinicians (85% women, 92% Caucasian, age = 35.6) completed interviews after participating in an open trial of an evidence-based intervention for depression, anxiety, and conduct disorders. Interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis methods. All (100%) clinicians reported current use of the intervention. Four themes emerged related to sustainability. Clinicians (100%) reported that making modifications, alignment with prior training, and relative advantage influenced their current intervention use. Clinicians (100%) reported that knowledge transfer from treatment developers was vital to sustainability. They (92%) noted a number of logistical, inner-organizational, and client-level barriers to sustainability. Lastly, clinicians (92%) identified factors related to scaling up the intervention. A variety of personal, organizational, logistical, and client variables influence the sustainment of new interventions, and could be leveraged in future implementation efforts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pro0000258DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7518310PMC
April 2020

Reassessing evidence-based content in popular smartphone apps for depression and anxiety: Developing and applying user-adjusted analyses.

J Consult Clin Psychol 2020 Nov 3;88(11):983-993. Epub 2020 Sep 3.

Department of Psychology.

Objective: To assess the dissemination of evidence-based content within smartphone apps for depression and anxiety by developing and applying -a method for weighting app content based on each app's number of active users.

Method: We searched the Apple App Store and Google Play Store and identified 27 apps within the top search hits, which real-world users are most likely to encounter. We developed a codebook of evidence-based treatment elements by reviewing past research on empirically supported treatments. We coded the apps to develop an initial tally of the frequency of treatment elements within the mental health (MH) apps. We then developed and applied user-adjusted analysis to refine the tallies based on each app's number of monthly active users.

Results: The 2 most popular apps were responsible for 90% of monthly active users, and user-adjusted analysis markedly altered conclusions of prior reports based on tallies alone. For example, mindfulness was present in 37% of apps but reached 96% of monthly active users, cognitive restructuring was present in 22% but reached only 2%, and exposure was present in 7% but reached only 0.0004%.

Conclusions: The potential impact of MH apps on mental health may be best evaluated via assessment that combines tallies of evidence-based content with data on the content users are actually accessing. Given wide variation in the popularity of MH apps, findings weighted by usage data may differ markedly from findings based on raw tallies alone. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000604DOI Listing
November 2020

Effect of Clinician Training in the Modular Approach to Therapy for Children vs Usual Care on Clinical Outcomes and Use of Empirically Supported Treatments: A Randomized Clinical Trial.

JAMA Netw Open 2020 08 3;3(8):e2011799. Epub 2020 Aug 3.

Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Importance: The Modular Approach to Therapy for Children (MATCH) was developed to address the comorbidities common among clinically referred youth, with beneficial outcomes shown in 2 US randomized clinical trials, where it outperformed both usual clinical care and single disorder-specific treatments.

Objective: To determine whether MATCH training of clinicians would result in more use of empirically supported treatment (EST) and better clinical outcomes than usual care (UC) in the publicly funded, multidisciplinary context of New Zealand.

Design, Setting, And Participants: This multisite, single-blind, computer-randomized clinical effectiveness trial compared MATCH with UC in child and adolescent mental health services in 5 regions of New Zealand. Recruitment occurred from March 2014 to July 2015, and a 3-month follow-up assessment was completed by May 2016. Clinicians at participating child and adolescent mental health services were randomized (1:1) to undertake training in MATCH or to deliver UC, and young people with anxiety, depression, trauma-related symptoms, or disruptive behavior seeking treatment at child and adolescent mental health services were randomized (1:1) to receive MATCH or UC. Participants and research assistants were blind to allocation. Data analysis was performed from April 2016 to July 2017.

Interventions: MATCH comprises EST components for flexible management of common mental health problems. UC includes case management and psychological therapies. Both can include pharmacotherapy.

Main Outcomes And Measures: There were 3 primary outcomes: trajectory of change of clinical severity, as measured by weekly ratings on the Brief Problem Monitor (BPM); fidelity to EST content, as measured by audio recordings of therapy sessions coded using the Therapy Integrity in Evidence Based Interventions: Observational Coding System; and efficiency of service delivery, as measured by duration of therapy (days) and clinician time (minutes).

Results: The study included 65 clinicians (mean age, 38.7 years; range, 23.0-64.0 years; 54 female [83%]; MATCH, 32 clinicians; UC, 33 clinicians) and 206 young people (mean age, 11.2 years; range 7.0-14.0 years; 122 female [61%]; MATCH, 102 patients; UC, 104 patients). For the BPM total ratings for parents, there was a mean (SE) slope of -1.04 (0.14) (1-year change, -6.12) in the MATCH group vs -1.04 (0.10) (1-year change, -6.17) in the UC group (effect size, 0.00; 95% CI, -0.27 to 0.28; P = .96). For the BPM total for youths, the mean (SE) slope was -0.74 (0.15) (1-year change, -4.35) in the MATCH group vs -0.73 (0.10) (1-year change, -4.32) in the UC group (effect size, -0.02; 95% CI, -0.30 to 0.26; P = .97). Primary analyses (intention-to-treat) showed no difference in clinical outcomes or efficiency despite significantly higher fidelity to EST content in the MATCH group (58 coded sessions; mean [SD], 80.0% [20.0%]) than the UC group (51 coded sessions; mean [SD], 57.0% [32.0%]; F(1,108) = 23.0; P < .001). With regard to efficiency of service delivery, there were no differences in total face-to-face clinician time between the MATCH group (mean [SD], 806 [527] minutes) and the UC group (mean [SD], 677 [539] minutes) or the overall duration of therapy between the MATCH group (mean [SD], 167 [107 days]) and the UC group (mean [SD], 159 [107] days).

Conclusions And Relevance: MATCH significantly increased adherence to EST practices but did not improve outcomes or efficiency. The nonsuperiority of MATCH may be attributable to high levels of EST use in UC in New Zealand.

Trial Registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry Identifier: ACTRN12614000297628.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.11799DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7431993PMC
August 2020

A Second and Third Look at FIRST: Testing Adaptations of A Principle-Guided Youth Psychotherapy.

J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 2020 Aug 7:1-14. Epub 2020 Aug 7.

Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri.

Objective: We examined the acceptability, integrity, and symptom trajectories associated with FIRST, a principle-guided treatment for youth internalizing and externalizing problems designed to support efficient uptake and implementation.

Method: We conducted two open trials of an adapted FIRST, focusing on uptake and implementation by novice trainees in a university-affiliated clinic, limiting treatment duration to six sessions, and benchmarking findings against a 2017 FIRST trial with community therapists. In Study 1, trainees received a two-day training and weekly two-hour supervision ( = 22 youths, ages 7-17, 50% female, 54.54% Caucasian, 4.55% Latinx). In Study 2, trainees received a one-day training and weekly one-hour supervision, delivering the six-session FIRST in a predetermined sequence ( = 26 youths, ages 11-17, 42.31% female, 65.38% Caucasian, 7.69% Latinx). In Study 3, the original study therapists - now practitioners - evaluated FIRST's effectiveness and implementation difficulty, and reported their own post-study FIRST use.

Results: Acceptability (treatment completion, session attendance, caregiver participation) and integrity (adherence, competence) were comparable across Study 1, Study 2 and the 2017 trial. Improvement effect sizes across ten outcome measures were in the large range in all three trials: ES = 1.10 in the 2017 trial, 0.83 in Study 1, and 0.81 in Study 2. Study 3 showed high effectiveness ratings, low difficulty ratings, and continued use of FIRST by a majority of clinicians.

Conclusions: Across two open trials and a follow-up survey, FIRST showed evidence of acceptability and integrity, with youth symptom reduction comparable to that in prior research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2020.1796678DOI Listing
August 2020

Can Artificial Intelligence Improve Psychotherapy Research and Practice?

Adm Policy Ment Health 2020 09;47(5):852-855

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA.

Leonard Bickman's article on the future of artificial intelligence (AI) in psychotherapy research paints an encouraging picture of the progress to be made in this field. We support his perspective, but we also offer some cautionary notes about the boost AI can provide. We suggest that AI is not likely to transform psychotherapy research or practice to the degree seen in pharmacology and medicine because the factors that contribute to treatment response in these realms differ so markedly from one another, and in ways that do not favor advances in psychotherapy. Despite this limitation, it seems likely that AI will have a beneficial impact, improving empirical analysis through data-driven model development, tools for addressing the limitations of traditional regression methods, and novel means of personalizing treatment. In addition, AI has the potential to augment the reach of the researcher and therapist by expanding our ability to gather data and deliver interventions beyond the confines of the lab or clinical office.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10488-020-01056-9DOI Listing
September 2020

Why I recovered: A qualitative investigation of factors promoting motivation for eating disorder recovery.

Int J Eat Disord 2020 08 21;53(8):1244-1251. Epub 2020 Jul 21.

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Objective: It is difficult for individuals with eating disorders (EDs) to build and maintain motivation to recover. This challenge contributes to high rates of treatment dropout and relapse. To date, motivational interventions have been largely ineffective, and there is little research on factors that affect recovery motivation. To better understand recovery motivation and identify potential intervention targets, this study examines factors that affect recovery motivation in individuals with EDs.

Method: N = 13 participants completed qualitative interviews. All had been recovered from their diagnosed and treated ED for at least 1 year. We applied thematic analysis to interview transcripts in order to identify factors that had influenced recovery motivation and to classify their effects as helpful, harmful, or mixed.

Results: Six main themes were identified, with subthemes detailed under each: (a) important people and groups (e.g., social circle, mentor), (b) actions and attitudes of others (e.g., judgmental responses, failure to intervene), (c) treatment-related factors (e.g., therapeutic skills, therapeutic alliance), (d) influential circumstances (e.g., removing triggers, pregnancy/children), (e) personal feelings and beliefs (e.g., obligation to others, hope for the future), and (f) the role of epiphanies (i.e., sudden insights or moments of change).

Discussion: In this study, we identified potentially malleable factors that may affect ED recovery motivation (e.g., removing triggers, focusing on obligation to others, getting involved in meaningful causes, securing non-judgmental support, building hope for the future). These factors may be investigated as potential targets or strategies in motivational interventions for EDs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/eat.23331DOI Listing
August 2020

Group Intervention for Adolescent Anxiety and Depression: Outcomes of a Randomized Trial with Adolescents in Kenya.

Behav Ther 2020 07 26;51(4):601-615. Epub 2019 Nov 26.

Harvard University.

Youth mental health interventions in low-resource communities may benefit from including empirically supported elements, using stigma-free content, and using trained lay-providers. We developed and evaluated such an intervention, targeting adolescent depression and anxiety in Kenya, where mental health care is limited by social stigma and a paucity of providers. Kenyan adolescents (N = 51, ages 14-17, 60.78% female) from a school in an urban slum in Nairobi with self-reported moderate-to-severe symptoms of depression or anxiety were randomized to the 4-week "Shamiri" ("thrive") group intervention or a study skills control intervention of equal duration. The Shamiri intervention included growth mindset, gratitude, and value affirmation exercises. The content was delivered by recent high school graduates (ages 17-21, 60% male) trained as lay-providers. Participants met in school once-a-week in groups of 9-12 youths (average group size 10). Compared to the study-skills control, Shamiri produced greater reductions in adolescent depression symptoms (p = .038; d = .32) and anxiety symptoms (p = .039; d = .54) from baseline to 4-week follow-up, and greater improvements in academic performance (p = .034; d = .32) from the school-term before versus after the intervention. There were no effects on overall social support or perceived control, but the Shamiri group showed larger increases in perceived social support from friends (p = .028, d = .71). This appears to be the first report that a brief, lay-provider delivered, community-based intervention may reduce internalizing symptoms and improve academic outcomes in high-symptom adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa. Larger replications with extended follow-ups will help gauge the strength and durability of these effects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2019.09.005DOI Listing
July 2020

Comparative efficacy and acceptability of antidepressants, psychotherapies, and their combination for acute treatment of children and adolescents with depressive disorder: a systematic review and network meta-analysis.

Lancet Psychiatry 2020 07;7(7):581-601

Department of Neurology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China. Electronic address:

Background: Depressive disorders are common in children and adolescents. Antidepressants, psychotherapies, and their combination are often used in routine clinical practice; however, available evidence on the comparative efficacy and safety of these interventions is inconclusive. Therefore, we sought to compare and rank all available treatment interventions for the acute treatment of depressive disorders in children and adolescents.

Methods: We did a systematic review and network meta-analysis. We searched PubMed, Embase, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Web of Science, PsycINFO, ProQuest, CINAHL, LiLACS, international trial registries, and the websites of regulatory agencies for published and unpublished randomised controlled trials from database inception until Jan 1, 2019. We included placebo-controlled and head-to-head trials of 16 antidepressants, seven psychotherapies, and five combinations of antidepressant and psychotherapy that are used for the acute treatment of children and adolescents (≤18 years old and of both sexes) with depressive disorder diagnosed according to standard operationalised criteria. Trials recruiting participants with treatment-resistant depression, bipolar disorder, psychotic depression, treatment duration of less than 4 weeks, or an overall sample size of fewer than ten patients were excluded. We extracted data following a predefined hierarchy of outcome measures, and assessed risk of bias and certainty of evidence using validated methods. Primary outcomes were efficacy (change in depressive symptoms) and acceptability (treatment discontinuation due to any cause). We estimated summary standardised mean differences (SMDs) or odds ratios (ORs) with credible intervals (CrIs) using network meta-analysis with random effects. This study was registered with PROSPERO, number CRD42015020841.

Findings: From 20 366 publications, we included 71 trials (9510 participants). Depressive disorders in most studies were moderate to severe. In terms of efficacy, fluoxetine plus cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) was more effective than CBT alone (-0·78, 95% CrI -1·55 to -0·01) and psychodynamic therapy (-1·14, -2·20 to -0·08), but not more effective than fluoxetine alone (-0·22, -0·86 to 0·42). No pharmacotherapy alone was more effective than psychotherapy alone. Only fluoxetine plus CBT and fluoxetine were significantly more effective than pill placebo or psychological controls (SMDs ranged from -1·73 to -0·51); and only interpersonal therapy was more effective than all psychological controls (-1·37 to -0·66). Nortriptyline (SMDs ranged from 1·04 to 2·22) and waiting list (SMDs ranged from 0·67 to 2·08) were less effective than most active interventions. In terms of acceptability, nefazodone and fluoxetine were associated with fewer dropouts than sertraline, imipramine, and desipramine (ORs ranged from 0·17 to 0·50); imipramine was associated with more dropouts than pill placebo, desvenlafaxine, fluoxetine plus CBT, and vilazodone (2·51 to 5·06). Most of the results were rated as "low" to "very low" in terms of confidence of evidence according to Confidence In Network Meta-Analysis.

Interpretation: Despite the scarcity of high-quality evidence, fluoxetine (alone or in combination with CBT) seems to be the best choice for the acute treatment of moderate-to-severe depressive disorder in children and adolescents. However, the effects of these interventions might vary between individuals, so patients, carers, and clinicians should carefully balance the risk-benefit profile of efficacy, acceptability, and suicide risk of all active interventions in young patients with depression on a case-by-case basis.

Funding: National Key Research and Development Program of China.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30137-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7303954PMC
July 2020

Three questions to consider before developing a mental health app.

World Psychiatry 2020 Jun;19(2):252-253

Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/wps.20757DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7215053PMC
June 2020

Single-session digital intervention for adolescent depression, anxiety, and well-being: Outcomes of a randomized controlled trial with Kenyan adolescents.

J Consult Clin Psychol 2020 Jul 11;88(7):657-668. Epub 2020 May 11.

Department of Psychology, Harvard University.

Background: Adolescent depression and anxiety symptoms are prevalent in sub-Saharan African countries, yet treatment options are scarce, and stigma limits help-seeking. Brief, computerized single-session interventions (SSIs) that contain empirically supported stigma-reducing elements may help expand access to treatment. We developed and evaluated such an intervention for Kenyan adolescents.

Method: High school students (N = 103, age 13-18) were randomized to a digital SSI Shamiri-Digital (Shamiri means "thrive" in Kiswahili) or a study-skills control intervention. Shamiri-Digital consisted of reading and writing activities about 3 concepts: growth mindset, gratitude, and value affirmation. Both Shamiri-Digital and the study-skills control condition were delivered electronically in schools.

Results: Compared to the control, Shamiri-Digital produced a greater reduction in adolescent depressive symptoms in both the full sample (p = .028, d = 0.50) and a subsample of youths with moderate to severe depression symptoms (p = .010, d = 0.83) from baseline to 2-week follow-up. The effects exceed the mean effects reported in meta-analyses of full-length, face-to-face psychotherapy for youth depression. There were no significant effects on anxiety symptoms, well-being, or happiness.

Conclusion: This is the first report that a brief, computerized SSI may reduce depressive symptoms in adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. Replication trials with extended follow-ups will help gauge the strength and durability of these effects. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000505DOI Listing
July 2020