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JMIR Ment Health. 2019 Apr 12;6(4):e13202. doi: 10.2196/13202.

Transdiagnostic Mobile Health: Smartphone Intervention Reduces Depressive Symptoms in People With Mood and Psychotic Disorders.

Author information

Behavioral Research In Technology and Engineering Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States.
Health Services Research and Development, VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, Seattle, WA, United States.
Department of Health Services, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States.
Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy, Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, United States.
Thresholds Inc, Chicago, IL, United States.



Depression is the most prevalent mental health problem. The need for effective treatments for depression far outstrips the availability of trained mental health professionals. Smartphones and other widely available technologies are increasingly being leveraged to deliver treatments for depression. Whether there are patient characteristics that affect the potency of smartphone interventions for depression is not well understood.


This study aimed to evaluate whether patient characteristics including clinical diagnosis, depression severity, psychosis status, and current use of antidepressant medications impact the effects of an evidence-based smartphone intervention on depressive symptoms.


Data were collected as part of a 2-arm randomized controlled trial comparing a multimodal smartphone intervention called FOCUS with a clinic-based intervention. Here, we report on 82 participants assigned to 12 weeks of FOCUS treatment. We conducted assessments of depressive symptoms using the Beck Depression Inventory-second edition (BDI-II) at baseline, postintervention (3 months), and follow-up (6 months). We tested for differences in the amount of improvement in BDI-II scores from baseline to posttreatment and 6-month follow-up between each of the following patient subgroups using 2 (group) × 2 (time) mixed effects models: diagnosis (ie, schizophrenia spectrum disorder vs bipolar disorder vs major depressive disorder), depression severity (ie, minimal-mild vs moderate-severe depression), psychosis status (ie, presence vs absence of psychotic symptoms), and antidepressant use (ie, taking antidepressants vs not taking antidepressants).


The majority of participants were male (60%, 49/82), African American (65%, 53/82), and middle-aged (mean age 49 years), with a high school education or lower (62%, 51/82). There were no differences in patient demographics across the variables that were used to stratify the analyses. There was a significant group × time interaction for baseline depression severity (F1,76.8=5.26, P=.02 [posttreatment] and F1,77.4=6.56, P=.01 [6-month follow-up]). Participants with moderate or severe depression had significant improvements (t42=3.20, P=.003 [posttreatment] and t42=4.20, P<.001 [6-month follow-up]), but participants with minimal or mild depression did not (t31=0.20, P=.84 [posttreatment] and t30=0.43, P=.67 [6-month follow-up]). There were no significant group × time interactions for diagnosis, psychosis status, or antidepressant medication use. Participants with minimal or mild depression had negligible nonsignificant improvements (<1 point on the BDI-II). Reduction in depression in all other groups was larger (range 1.7-6.5 points on the BDI-II).


Our results suggest that FOCUS can be deployed to treat moderate to severe depressive symptoms among people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder, in concert with antidepressant medications or without them, in both people with and without active psychotic symptoms. The study results are consistent with research on transdiagnostic models in psychotherapy and extend our knowledge about the potential of transdiagnostic mobile health.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT02421965; (Archived by WebCite at


bipolar disorder; depression; illness management; mHealth; schizophrenia; symptoms; transdiagnostic

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