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Coping Skills May Reduce Teen Depression

Cognitive Behavioral Intervention Can Cut Depression in Teens, Study Says

Most Depressed Teens Aren’t Treated continued...

The sessions were led by a therapist who taught problem-solving skills and other strategies designed to help the teens recognize and change unrealistic and overly negative thinking.

Compared to participants who did not get this intervention:

  • Those who did were less likely to develop depression during the course of the study, with about one in five (21%) experiencing new depressive episodes compared to one in three (33%).
  • The impact of the intervention was most dramatic in adolescents who did not have a parent who was depressed at the time, with 12% of these teens developing depression vs. 40% of teens who did not go through the program.
  • The researchers estimated that the intervention prevented one episode of depression for every nine teens treated -- a risk reduction similar to that which has been reported for antidepressants.

Having a parent who was actively depressed at the start of the study significantly reduced the effectiveness of the intervention, lead researcher Judy Garber, PhD, tells WebMD.

“It may be that there is more conflict at home or that the parent is just too depressed to help them or it may be a marker of greater genetic vulnerability,” she says.

CBT Not Widely Available

Duke University psychology professor John Curry, PhD, was a co-author of the 2007 study showing cognitive behavioral therapy combined with an antidepressant to be more effectiveness than either treatment given alone.

Curry tells WebMD that behavioral intervention programs are not widely available to depressed teens and teens at risk for depression.

“Cognitive behavioral therapy is still not taught in a lot of graduate programs and it is not easy to find therapists who do it,” he says.

Most depressed teens who are treated receive either antidepressants alone or antidepressants with conventional psychotherapy, and most at-risk teens receive no treatment at all, Curry says.

“In teens, a big part of the problem is that symptoms aren’t recognized for what they are. They are dismissed as the normal problems associated with growing up,” he says. “If we can identify kids who are at risk, that is a big part of the battle.”

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