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Depression Health Center

Coping Skills May Reduce Teen Depression

Cognitive Behavioral Intervention Can Cut Depression in Teens, Study Says
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 2, 2009 -- Teaching at-risk teens skills to help them identify negative thinking and better deal with their problems can reduce the incidence of depression, new research confirms.

The study compared outcomes among teens who were and were not enrolled in a cognitive behavioral therapy program.

With the exception of those living with a parent who was depressed, teens who took part in the program were significantly less likely to develop clinical depression over the course of the eight-month study.

The study, which appears in the June 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, is one of the largest ever to show that teaching positive thinking and coping strategies can prevent depression in at-risk adolescents.

“We know that these kids tend to interpret situations in overly negative ways,” study co-author Gregory N. Clarke, PhD, of Portland, Oregon’s Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research tells WebMD. “The idea is to teach them the skills they need to keep unrealistic thinking from snowballing into full-blown depression.”

Most Depressed Teens Aren’t Treated

Depression among teens often goes unrecognized and untreated. Studies suggest that only about one in four depressed adolescents receive any kind of treatment.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression in teens, either alone or in combination with antidepressant drugs.

In a 2007 study, the combination of CBT and a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which is a class of antidepressant medication, was found to be more effective for treating major depression than either treatment alone.

In another study, reported in February, the combination of CBT and an antidepressant was more effective than drug therapy alone in the treatment of teens who had not responded to initial drug treatment.

In the newly published study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of a cognitive behavioral intervention program for preventing depression in 316 at-risk teens.

All of the study participants had at least one parent who was depressed or had a history of depression and some had been treated for depression themselves.

Half were randomly assigned to the intervention program, which consisted of eight weekly 90-minute group sessions followed by six monthly 90-minute sessions.

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