Computerised cognitive behavioural therapy for depression and anxiety with older people: a pilot study to examine patient acceptability and treatment outcome


  • The manuscript contains original unpublished work that had not been submitted for publication elsewhere. This report has been adapted from the first author's (WM) doctoral thesis, completed for DClinPsych qualification in Clinical Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. The results of this study were also presented at the PSIGE national conference in June 2012 with an abstract included in the conference programme.

  • Ethical approval: Prior to the commencement of the study, a research proposal was submitted to the National Research Ethics Service (NRES) via an IRAS application. The study was subsequently granted ethical approval by the East of Scotland Research Ethics Service, NHS Tayside Committee on Medical Research Ethics B.

Correspondence to: W. McMurchie, DClinPsych, E-mail:



The study objective was to determine the acceptability and treatment outcome of using Beating the Blues (BTB) with older people (65+ years). Specific aims included identifying the treatment uptake and drop-out rate, and describing the role of basic demographics in therapy uptake.


Fifty-eight participants, experiencing symptoms of depression, were given a free choice of receiving treatment as usual (TAU) plus BTB (TAU + BTB) or TAU alone. All participants completed demographic questionnaires and a range of outcome measures at baseline, 2 months after baseline (end of treatment) and 3 months after baseline (follow-up).


Thirty-three participants (56.9%) opted to receive BTB and reported having more experience and confidence using a computer than those who declined BTB. Twenty-four participants (72.7%) went on to complete all eight BTB sessions. Statistical analysis found significant differences between the two treatment groups, with the TAU + BTB group showing greater improvements in their symptoms of depression and anxiety than the TAU group by the end of treatment and at follow-up. Furthermore, the TAU + BTB group had a significantly higher percentage of participants who met criteria for clinically significant improvement in their symptoms of depression by the end of treatment and at follow-up.


Although further research is required, including a randomised controlled trial, the results of this initial pilot study provide evidence that BTB may offer an acceptable and effective treatment option for older people. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.