Efficacy of a Behavioral Activation Teletherapy Intervention to Treat Depression and Anxiety in Primary Care VitalSign6 Program

Joseph M. Trombello, Charles South, Audrey Cecil, Katherine E. Sánchez, Alma Christina Sánchez, Sara Levinson Eidelman, Taryn L. Mayes, Farra Kahalnik, Corey Tovian, Beth D. Kennard, Madhukar H. Trivedi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objective: Research analyzing behavioral activation (BA) teletherapy outcomes is limited. Among low-income real-world primary care patients receiving a brief BA teletherapy program for depression and anxiety, we analyzed descriptive statistics and changes in depression and anxiety scores throughout treatment.

Methods: One hundred thirty patients completed an intake assessment from June 2015 to August 2016; outcomes included the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7). Data from 74 low-income, primary care patients completing at least one therapy session were analyzed to characterize the demographics of therapy patients, to describe their depression and anxiety symptoms throughout treatment, and to examine whether patients who completed 4 or more sessions had statistically lower exit scores than those completing fewer than 4.

Results: Patients were moderately depressed (PHQ-9 score: mean = 14.46) and anxious (GAD-7 score: mean = 11.91) at intake. Patients were predominantly Latino/Latina (68.9%), Spanish-speaking (54.0%), and female (79.7%). The majority of patients who received at least one therapy session achieved and sustained depression remission. Patients who completed ≥ 4 therapy sessions demonstrated lower final session depression (PHQ-9: mean = 5.13, SD = 4.75) and anxiety (GAD-7: mean = 4.77, SD = 4.21) scores compared to those completing < 4 sessions (PHQ-9: mean = 8.04, SD = 6.20, P = .029; GAD-7: mean = 8.00, SD = 6.02, P = .011).

Conclusions: Primary care patients demonstrated improvements in depressive and anxious symptoms throughout BA-based teletherapy. BA teletherapy is feasible and associated with improved outcomes as an adjunct or alternative intervention for primary care providers and in low-income, charity populations.​.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalThe primary care companion for CNS disorders
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 19 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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