Phone-based interventions with automated mindfulness and mastery messages improve the daily functioning for depressed middle-aged community residents

Alex J. Zautra, Mary Davis, John W. Reich, John A. Sturgeon, Anne Arewasikporn, Howard Tennen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The value of two self-help programs that rely on automated instructional materials were tested versus an attention control in a community sample with symptoms of depression. A randomized controlled trial was designed to examine the effects of a brief, daily intervention targeting either personal control/mastery (MC) or mindful awareness/acceptance (MA) compared with an attention-control treatment that consisted of tips for a healthy lifestyle (HT). Seventy-three individuals with mild to moderate symptoms of depression received a brief in-person orientation to the treatment and then received the MC, MA, or HT interventions delivered in prerecorded automated messages via phone each morning. Each evening, participants completed an online daily diary that included the outcome measures. Multilevel analyses of diary data revealed significantly greater improvements in emotional health and self-reported physical health for the treatment conditions across the 31-day trial in comparison to HT controls. For measures of emotional health, the effects of MC and MA were equivalent. Only the MA condition led to better self-reported physical health than the HT control condition. The everyday lives of middle-aged community members initially reporting mild to moderate depression were improved by interventions that were delivered primarily via automated daily messages designed to enhance personal mastery, mindfulness, and acceptance. Across the 31 days of the study, the MA group demonstrated the most robust effects. The personal mastery condition also yielded benefits compared with attention-controls, though those effects were less pronounced. In sum, the findings encourage further development and testing of innovative and accessible intervention methods to address mental health problems of older adults in the community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-228
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Psychotherapy Integration
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Acceptance
  • Adult mental health
  • Depression
  • Emotional health
  • Mindfulness
  • Personal mastery
  • Physical health
  • Psychological distress telephone interventions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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