digital cbt, Pediatric depression, Pediatric depression treatment

Pediatric Depression Treatment Using Digital CBT, Self-Guided Interventions


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There are many barriers to treatment among young people between the ages of 12- to 24-years-old. The cost of therapy or limitations in the ability of this population to attend face-to-face mental health treatment can often be difficult. Pediatric depression is a concern, particularly among youth who cannot access regular psychotherapy sessions. Research is now shedding more light on how CBT interventions can be helpful for young people struggling with depression and anxiety.

Pediatric depression treatment can involve incorporating digitized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) interventions (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, n.d.; Higa-McMillan et al., 2016; Watts et al., 2015; Weersing et al., 2017). Digital, self-guided CBT interventions are a growing area of promising research into viable, easily accessible options for young people who struggle with access or engagement with traditional in-person care. 

However, adherence to digital CBT interventions has been historically low, and this is believed to be due to a lack of, or insufficient disclosure of, recommendations or instructions for appropriate use. In face-to-face delivery of CBT, treatment manuals provide specific instructions on treatment administration, and are closely followed by clinicians. However, when self-guided digital interventions are used, there often is insufficient adherence to instructions for properly using the materials.

Li and colleagues (2022) conducted a systematic review of young people between the ages of 12- to 24-years-old who used a digital CBT intervention for pediatric depression or anxiety. Samples of 16,578 young people were examined. The researchers found that definitions of appropriate use are specific to each digital, self-guided CBT intervention. However, statements of proper use are not routinely provided, and how they are communicated to users is not regularly reported. Although there are specific definitions of appropriate use, adherence among participants was routinely operationalized as how much of the intervention was completed and was not associated with the outcomes of the interventions.

Li and colleagues discussed a framework for systematically reporting definitions of appropriate use for digital, self-guided CBT interventions for treating pediatric depression. This framework is intended to guide users as they utilize pediatric depression treatment and to aid in the development of correct and specific measures of adherence. 

The researchers also noted that clinicians that young people may differ in how they engage with technology when compared to middle-aged or older adults (Szymkowiak et al., 2021; Tylee et al., 2007; Vizcaya-Moreno et al., 2020). By providing clear instructions, self-help digital technology can improve the effectiveness of digital CBT interventions for depression. Furthermore, allowing for differing styles in how to use technology, youth with depression can be encouraged to choose the best interventions for their unique needs and concerns.

Pediatric Telemedicine, Telehealth & Teletherapy: Practicing with Children & Adolescents

This workshop aims to bring the pediatric telemedicine and telehealth evidence base to you in ways that are practical, predictable, and doable.

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