Behavioral and cognitive intervention strategies delivered via coached apps for depression: Pilot trial

Colleen Stiles-Shields*, Enid Montague, Mary J. Kwasny, David C. Mohr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Depression is common in primary care settings, but barriers prevent many primary care patients from initiating treatment. Smartphone apps stand as a possible means to overcome such barriers. However, there is limited evidence to understand the use and efficacy of these apps. The purpose of the current study was to pilot an evaluation of the usage and efficacy of apps for depression based upon behavioral or cognitive intervention skills, compared to a wait-list control. Thirty adults with depression were randomized to the use of either a behavioral app (Boost Me) or a cognitive app (Thought Challenger) or to a wait-list control. Boost Me and Thought Challenger participants received 6 weeks of the respective intervention along with weekly coaching sessions, with a 4-week follow-up period; wait-list control participants received no interventions for 10 weeks. A repeated-measures analysis of variance was conducted to examine depression over time and across treatment groups; t tests compared app usage across groups. Depression scores changed significantly over time (p > .001), with group differences occurring between Thought Challenger and wait-list control participants (p = .03). Boost Me was used significantly more than was Thought Challenger (p = .02); however, there was no evidence to suggest correlations between usage and changes in depression (ps > .05). The present study provides initial support that intervention strategies for depression delivered via apps with human support can impact symptoms and may promote continued use over 6 weeks. This pilot also demonstrates the feasibility of future research regarding the delivery of behavioral and cognitive intervention strategies via apps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-238
Number of pages6
JournalPsychological Services
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Access barriers
  • Apps
  • Behavioral activation
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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