This study will evaluate the effectiveness of an Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy
program in treating mothers with depression who have young children.
Being a mother of a young child can be very stressful. Many women find that being a parent
may not be as enjoyable as expected and that they feel persistently tired or sad. Because of
the possible "lows" of recent motherhood, new mothers are particularly prone to depression.
The impact of depression on recent mothers is significant, including emotional distress for
the woman as well as possible disturbances in the child's development. If left untreated,
the mother's depression may cause strain on family life and her relationship with her child.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy that can be used to treat people
with depression, aims to modify thoughts and behaviors. Despite the availability of helpful
CBT programs, most depressed people do not receive treatment. To make these treatments more
accessible to mothers who may lack the means to seek help, this study will adapt CBT for
depression to an at-home computer-based program. This study will evaluate the effectiveness
of the computer-based CBT program in improving the moods of depressed mothers and their
children and enhancing the quality of time shared between mother and child.
Participation in this single-blind study will last at least 8 weeks. A computer, modem,
monitor, and Internet connection will be installed in the homes of all participants.
Participants will then be randomly assigned to receive either immediate treatment or delayed
treatment, which will begin after a wait-list period. Treatment will be delivered on a
computer, which will allow the participants to chat online with other parents and their
program coach. There will be 11 CBT-related lessons over 8 weeks, taking between 8 and 11
hours total to complete. The lessons will promote self-learning and will include content of
particular relevance to mothers of young children, including how to handle stress and
improve mood. Participants will be required to contact their coach at least every 2 weeks to
review the lessons learned. There will be three assessments, occurring at pretreatment,
immediately post-treatment, and 3 months post-treatment. Participants assigned to delayed
treatment will complete one additional assessment prior to beginning the wait-list period.
Each assessment will involve both parent and child and will include play interactions,
questionnaires, and interviews about parenting, feelings, child behavior, moods, and
self-esteem. Another caretaker of the child and the child's teacher will also be asked to
complete questionnaires about the child's and/or parent's behavior.
- Evidence of elevated self-reported depressive symptomatology, confirmed by a CES-D
score of greater than 21
- Understands spoken English
- Either the biological/adoptive mother, permanent legal guardian, or long-term
relative caretaker for the child
- Resides in a stable residence with the infrastructure for phone service that can
support Internet access