Explaining the Efficacy of an Internet-Based Behavioral Activation Intervention for Major Depression: A Mechanistic Study of a Randomized-Controlled Trial

Zhongfang Fu, Huibert Burger, Retha Arjadi, Maaike H. Nauta, Claudi L.H. Bockting*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Behavioral activation is an effective treatment for depression that is theorized to facilitate structured increases in enjoyable activities that increase opportunities for contact with positive reinforcement; to date, however, only few mechanistic studies focused on a standalone intervention. Method: Interventions using internet-based behavioral activation or psychoeducation were compared based on data from a randomized-controlled trial of 313 patients with major depressive disorder. Activation level and depression were measured fortnightly (baseline, Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8, 10), using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 and the Behavioral Activation for Depression Scale-Short Form, respectively. Analysis was performed to determine if a change in activation level mediated treatment efficacy. Results: Latent growth modeling showed that internet-based behavioral activation treatment significantly reduced depressive symptoms from baseline to the end of treatment (standardized coefficient = −.13, p = .017) by increasing the rate of growth in the activation level (mediated effect).

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA5
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalClinical Psychology in Europe
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep-2021


  • Behavioral activation
  • Depression
  • Internet-based intervention
  • Lay counselors
  • Psychological interventions
  • Working mechanisms

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