Anxiety and depression are highly prevalent during adolescence and characterized by negative interpretation biases. Cognitive bias modification of interpretations (CBM-I) may reduce such biases and improve emotional functioning. However, as findings have been mixed and the traditional scenario training is experienced as relatively boring, a picture-based type of training might be more engaging and effective.
The current study investigated short- and long-term effects (up to 6 months) and users’ experience of two types of CBM-I procedure in adolescents with heightened symptoms of anxiety or depression (N = 119, aged 12–18 year). Participants were randomized to eight online sessions of text-based scenario training, picture-word imagery training, or neutral control training.
No significant group differences were observed on primary or secondary emotional outcomes. A decrease in anxiety and depressive symptoms, and improvements in emotional resilience were observed, irrespective of condition. Scenario training marginally reduced negative interpretation bias on a closely matched assessment task, while no such effects were found on a different task, nor for the picture-word or control group. Subjective evaluations of all training paradigms were relatively negative and the imagery component appeared particularly difficult for adolescents with higher symptom levels.