The Efficacy of Behavioral Activation Treatment Among Depressed Spanish-Speaking Latinos

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Objective: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is highly prevalent among U.S. Spanish-speaking Latinos, but the lack of empirically supported treatments precludes this population’s access to quality mental health care. Method: Following the promising results of an open-label trial of the Behavioral Activation Treatment for Depression (BATD) among Spanish-speaking Latinos, the authors conducted a randomized control trial (RCT; N = 46) that compared BATD to supportive counseling. Study outcomes included depression, BATD proposed mechanisms of change, and nonspecific psychotherapy factors. Results: Relative to supportive counseling, BATD led to greater decreases in depressive symptoms over time (p = .04) and greater MDD remission at the end of treatment (p = .01). Activity level (p = .01) and environmental reward (p = .05) showed greater increases over time among those who received BATD compared to supportive counseling. Treatment adherence, therapeutic alliance, and treatment satisfaction did not differ between the groups over time (ps > 0.17). The 1-month follow-up suggested sustained clinical gains across therapies. Conclusions: The current study adds to a growing treatment literature and provides support that BATD is efficacious in reducing depression and increasing activity level and environmental reward in the largest, yet historically underserved U.S. ethnic minority population. This trial sets the stage for a larger RCT that evaluates the transportability and generalizability of BATD in an effectiveness trial.

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