A Randomized Controlled Trial of an Online, Modular, Active Learning Training Program for Behavioral Activation for Depression

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Objective: This randomized-controlled trial assessed the efficacy of a trainer-led, active-learning, modular, online behavioral activation (BA) training program compared with a self-paced online BA training with the same modular content. Method: Seventy-seven graduate students (M = 30.3 years, SD = 6.09; 76.6% female) in mental health training programs were randomly assigned to receive either the trainer-led or self-paced BA training. Both trainings consisted of 4 weekly sessions covering 4 core BA strategies. Primary outcomes were changes in BA skills as measured by an objective role-play assessment and self-reported use of BA strategies. Assessments were conducted at pre-, post-, and 6-weeks after training. A series of longitudinal mixed effect models assessed changes in BA skills and a longitudinal model implemented with generalized estimating equations assessed BA use over time. Results: Significantly greater increases in total BA skills were found in the trainer-led training condition. The trainer-led training condition also showed greater increases in all core BA skills either at posttraining, follow-up, or both. Reported use of BA strategies with actual clients increased significantly from pre- to posttraining and maintained at follow-up in both training conditions. Conclusions: This trial adds to the literature on the efficacy of online training as a method to disseminate BA. Online training with an active learning, modular approach may be a promising and accessible implementation strategy. Additional strategies may need to be paired with the online BA training to assure the long-term implementation and sustainability of BA in clinical practice.

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