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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Reduce Depression in Teens

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, June 03, 2009 3:17 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA & Prescription Drugs, Depression, Teenagers, Protecting Your Family, Emotional Problems, Antidepressants, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto / author: aldomurillo

A new study, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests a cognitive behavioral program for teens at risk of depression may help prevent future depressive episodes while helping them to better deal with their problems.

Depression is a common and recurring condition associated with difficulties in relationships, impaired school and work performance, and increased risk for substance abuse and suicide.

The study is one of the largest to show that teaching teens positive thinking and coping strategies can prevent depression.

“We know these kids tend to interpret situations in a negative manner,” study co-author Gregory N. Clarke, PhD, of Oregon’s Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, tells WebMD. “The idea is teaching them the skills that will enable them to keep unrealistic thinking from advancing into full-blown depression.”

Depressed Teens Are Often Untreated

Depression among teens is often unrecognized and untreated. The study authors note, only one-quarter of the depressed youth in the United States are currently receiving treatment for their depression disorder.

In past studies, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proved effective for teens suffering from depression, alone and/or in conjunction with antidepressant drugs.

In the new study, researchers analyzed the efficacy of a cognitive behavioral intervention program for preventing depression in 316 at-risk teens.

Study participants were between the ages of 13 to 17 and had a history of depression or depressive symptoms. None of them had other serious disorders such as bipolar disorder. They were also not on any antidepressants, nor had they undergone more than 8 sessions of previous psychotherapy. However, all participants had at least one parent or caretaker who had experienced depression.

Half the group was randomly assigned to the intervention program, consisting of weekly 90-minute group sessions followed by monthly 90-minute sessions.

During the sessions, led by a trained therapist, they were taught positive problem-solving skills and other strategies to help them recognize and change unrealistic negative thinking.

During the nine-month follow up, those teens in the prevention program had an 11 percent lower incidence of depression. While in the therapy group, teens with a depressed parent were more likely to be diagnosed with depression.

The take home message for parents, says Dr. Garber, is “They need to pay attention to how their children are doing and if they’re depressed.” And for public health policy makers the message is that it would be good to pay attention to prevention programs. #

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