Evaluation of a text-message-based maintenance intervention for Major Depressive Disorder after inpatient cognitive behavioral therapy

Sandra Schlicker*, David D. Ebert, Thomas Middendorf, Ingrid Titzler, Matthias Berking

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction High relapse rates in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) indicate the need for interventions enhancing the sustainability of treatment outcomes. Primary aim of the present study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a text-message-based maintenance intervention for depression (TMMI-D). Additionally, we aimed to clarify whether the use of individualized messages would lead to better outcome than the use of standardized messages which focused upon adaptive ways of regulating undesired emotions. Methods In this RCT, 226 individuals who had completed inpatient treatment for MDD were randomly allocated to a condition in which participants received TMMI-D with standardized messages targeting emotion regulation, or to a condition with individualized messages, or to a waitlist control condition. Primary outcome was depressive symptom severity assessed with the BDI-II. Results Multilevel analyses suggest that participants receiving TIMMI-D with standardized messages reported a significantly smaller increase of depressive symptoms during the post-treatment and follow-up interval than did patients in the waitlist control condition. Contrastingly, there was no such effect for patients who had used TIMMI-D with individualized messages. Limitations Limitations include proportions of missing data, thus, generalizing the findings of the present study might be an overestimation. Conclusion Text-message-based interventions may help increase the sustainability of outcome after treatment for MDD. The unexpected superiority of the standardized over the individualized version is in line with research that points to the efficacy of interventions fostering adaptive emotion regulation as a means to treat depression (and other mental disorders).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-312
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Emotion regulation
  • Intervention
  • Relapse maintenance
  • Text messages


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