Facilitator Contact, Discussion Boards, and Virtual Badges as Adherence Enhancements to a Web-Based, Self-guided, Positive Psychological Intervention for Depression: Randomized Controlled Trial (Preprint)

Journal Article


Adherence to self-guided interventions tends to be very low, especially in people with depression. Prior studies have demonstrated that enhancements may increase adherence, but little is known about the efficacy of various enhancements in comparison to, or in combination with, one another.


The aim of our study is to test whether 3 enhancements—facilitator contact (FC), an online discussion board, and virtual badges (VB)—alone, or in combination, improve adherence to a self-guided, web-based intervention for depression. We also examined whether age, gender, race, ethnicity, comfort with technology, or baseline depression predicted adherence or moderated the effects that each enhancement had on adherence.


Participants were recruited through web-based sources and, after completing at least 4 out of 7 daily emotion reports, were sequentially assigned to 1 of 9 conditions—the intervention alone; the intervention plus 1, 2, or all 3 enhancements; or an emotion reporting control condition. The intervention was a positive psychological program consisting of 8 skills that specifically targeted positive emotions, and it was delivered over 5 weeks in a self-guided, web-based format. We operationalized adherence as the number of skills accessed.


A total of 602 participants were enrolled in this study. Participants accessed, on average, 5.61 (SD 2.76) of 8 skills. The total number of enhancements participants received (0-3) did not predict the number of skills accessed. Participants who were assigned to the VB+FC condition accessed significantly more skills than those in the intervention only conditions. Furthermore, participants in arms that received the combination of both the VB and FC enhancements (VB+FC and VB+FC+online discussion board) accessed a greater number of skills relative to the number of skills accessed by participants who received either VB or FC without the other. Moderation analyses revealed that the receipt of VB (vs no VB) predicted higher adherence among participants with moderately severe depression at baseline.


The results suggested that the VB+FC combination significantly increased the number of skills accessed in a self-guided, web-based intervention for elevated depression. We have provided suggestions for refinements to these enhancements, which may further improve adherence.


ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02861755; http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02861755

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Moskowitz, JT; Addington, EL; Shiu, E; Bassett, SM; Schuette, S; Kwok, I; Freedman, ME; Leykin, Y; Saslow, LR; Cohn, MA; Cheung, EO

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.2196/preprints.25922