skip to page content
Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

HSR&D Citation Abstract

Search | Search by Center | Search by Source | Keywords in Title

Treating depressive symptoms among veterans in primary care: A multi-site RCT of brief behavioral activation.

Funderburk JS, Pigeon WR, Shepardson RL, Wade M, Acker J, Fivecoat H, Wray LO, Maisto SA. Treating depressive symptoms among veterans in primary care: A multi-site RCT of brief behavioral activation. Journal of affective disorders. 2021 Mar 15; 283:11-19.

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

If you have VA-Intranet access, click here for more information

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
   Search Dimensions for VA for this citation
* Don't have VA-internal network access or a VA email address? Try searching the free-to-the-public version of Dimensions


BACKGROUND: Behavioral activation is ideal for embedded behavioral health providers (BHPs) working in primary care settings treating patients reporting a range of depressive symptoms. The current study tested whether a brief version of Behavioral Activation (two 30-minute appointments, 2 boosters) designed for primary care (BA-PC) was more effective than primary care behavioral health treatment-as-usual (TAU) in reducing depressive symptoms and improving quality of life and functioning. METHODS: Parallel-arm, multi-site randomized controlled trial. 140 Veterans were randomized to BA-PC or TAU and completed assessments at baseline, 6 weeks, 12 weeks, and 24 weeks. RESULTS: Reductions in depressive symptoms were observed in both groups between baseline and 3-weeks prior to any treatment, with continued reductions among those in the BA-PC condition through 12-weeks. However, there was no significant condition X time interaction at 12-weeks. Quality of life and mental health functioning were significantly improved for those in the BA-PC condition, compared to TAU, at 12 weeks. LIMITATIONS: Generalizability to a broader population may be limited as this sample consisted of veterans. Although engagement in TAU matched other prior work, it was lower than engagement in BA-PC, which also may compromise results. CONCLUSIONS: Although this study found that both TAU and BA-PC participants showed a decline in depressive symptoms, improvements in functioning and quality of life within those assigned to BA-PC, strong treatment retention and feasibility of BA-PC, and significant reductions in depressive symptoms among those with more severe baseline depressive symptoms are encouraging and support continued research on BA-PC. This trial was registered in as Improving Mood in Veterans in Primary Care (NCT02276807).

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.