Direct-to-consumer marketing of psychological treatments: A randomized controlled trial.
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OBJECTIVE: Although direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing of pharmacologic interventions is effective and common, similar approaches have yet to be evaluated in the promotion of psychological treatments (PTs). This is the first randomized controlled trial evaluating the potential of DTC marketing of PTs. METHOD: Participants (N = 344; 75.0% female, mean age = 18.6 years, 48.5% non-Hispanic White) were randomly assigned to consume one of four extended commercial campaigns embedded within unrelated programming across 3 weeks. The four campaign conditions were a PT campaign, a PT informing about medication side effects campaign, a medication campaign, and a neutral campaign. Attitudes about and intention to seek psychological treatment were assessed prior to campaign exposure (T1), 1 week following the final week of campaign exposure (T2), and at a 3-month follow-up evaluation (T3). RESULTS: The percentage of participants who newly intended psychological treatment at T2 or T3 differed by condition, with those assigned to the PT campaign slightly more likely to have intended to receive psychological treatment at T2 or T3 than those in other conditions. Baseline reports of emotional symptoms moderated the effect of condition on attitudes toward PT and perceived likelihood of seeking treatment in the future. CONCLUSIONS: Findings support the preliminary utility of DTC marketing of psychological treatments. Increasing consumer knowledge of PTs may be a worthwhile complement to current dissemination and implementation efforts aimed at promoting the uptake of PTs in mental health care.
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