A cluster randomized controlled platform trial comparing group MEmory specificity training (MEST) to group psychoeducation and supportive counselling (PSC) in the treatment of recurrent depression

Aliza Werner-Seidler, Caitlin Hitchcock, Anna Bevan, Anna McKinnon, Julia Gillard, Theresa Dahm, Isobel Chadwick, Inderpal Panesar, Lauren Breakwell, Viola Mueller, Evangeline Rodrigues, Catrin Rees, Siobhan Gormley, Susanne Schweizer, Peter Watson, Filip Raes, Laura Jobson, Tim Dalgleish

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Impaired ability to recall specific autobiographical memories is characteristic of depression, which when reversed, may have therapeutic benefits. This cluster-randomized controlled pilot trial investigated efficacy and aspects of acceptability, and feasibility of MEmory Specificity Training (MEST) relative to Psychoeducation and Supportive Counselling (PSC) for Major Depressive Disorder (N = 62). A key aim of this study was to determine a range of effect size estimates to inform a later phase trial. Assessments were completed at baseline, post-treatment and 3-month follow-up. The cognitive process outcome was memory specificity. The primary clinical outcome was symptoms on the Beck Depression Inventory-II at 3-month follow-up. The MEST group demonstrated greater improvement in memory specificity relative to PSC at post-intervention (d = 0.88) and follow-up (d = 0.74), relative to PSC. Both groups experienced a reduction in depressive symptoms at 3-month follow-up (d = 0.67). However, there was no support for a greater improvement in depressive symptoms at 3 months following MEST relative to PSC (d = −0.04). Although MEST generated changes on memory specificity and improved depressive symptoms, results provide no indication that MEST is superior to PSC in the resolution of self-reported depressive symptoms. Implications for later-phase definitive trials of MEST are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • Autobiographical memory
  • Depression
  • Memory specificity training

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