Staff Articles

MHCGM Participates in Groundbreaking Clinical Trial for Treating Depression

Each year, The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester collaborates with various organizations to conduct research studies which explore different areas of mental illness and recovery, and has enjoyed a 15 year history as an active participant in studying evidence-based practices.

This year a clinical team at our affiliate program, Bedford Counseling Associates, has agreed to partner with WILLOW therapy software to examine WILLOW’s effectiveness in treating depression compared to standard care in a 12-week trial treating depressed outpatients.  Both the clinicians and clients are considered subjects in this study. The sponsors are particularly interested in learning how technology can be used to assist therapists to treat patients experiencing depression. The randomized clinical trial will last 9 months and will compare therapy outcomes for treating moderate depression using Behavioral Activation facilitated by a computer-based therapy platform, WILLOW, to the results from treating moderate depression using standard treatment.

Participants in the study are randomly assigned to one of two conditions: computer-assisted therapy or standard therapy. Clinicians are asked to treat 2-5 research patients, recruited from patients seeking treatment related to depression symptoms. Over the course of the 12-week trial for each subject, clinicians and patients are expected to complete four study assessments that include short online surveys and a brief telephone interview related to the use of WILLOW and to elicit outcome data. If assigned to the computer-assisted therapy condition, clinicians will also be asked to complete 1-3 hours of online training on their own to learn WILLOW in advance of using it with patients.

The major inclusion criteria for clients:

  • 18 years of age or older.
  • Meets criteria for moderate depression. As an example, must score 11 or higher on the PHQ-9.

The major exclusion criteria:

  • Experiencing active mania or psychosis.
  • Meets criteria for current alcohol or other drug abuse/dependence.
  • At imminent risk of suicide (as deemed by their clinician).
  • Self-reported occurrence of self-harm or self-injury in the past 30 days.

According to the WILLOW developers, the software can provide increased efficiency and effectiveness through:

  • Providing an expert supervisor during the session for support, guidance, and help.
  • Guiding in building a personalized evidence-based treatment plan for each patient.
  • Automatically capturing data, including scores from measures, therapy tasks, and homework assignments into a format that can be lifted into session notes.
  • Providers and patients can see outcomes for each assigned measure displayed over time.
  • Helping providers observe and track clinically relevant trends and data from the dashboard, as well as tips and advisories on patient progress.

Linda Dimeff, PhD, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Evidence Based Institute, the leading partner in the study, expressed her gratitude in working with Bedford Counseling Associates team and recently remarked, “because of your leadership and commitment to research, we currently have enrolled eight clinicians resulting in 16 patient/therapist dyads for WILLOW research.”

Angela Kelley Brimer, a representative of WILLOW who is partnering with MHCGM to conduct the study also noted her enthusiasm for the on-going research project with the BCA team and said, “Thank you, Russell. It has been such a pleasure working with you all and we look forward to continuing our work together.”

The study is due to be completed this fall.