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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.

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Abstract:

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 clinicaltrials.gov as Improving Mood in Veterans in Primary Care (NCT02276807).





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