Study: Cognitive Restructuring Helps Prevent Depression in At-Risk Teens

(From Psychiatric News Alert) A cognitive-behavioral prevention program, when compared with usual care, showed significant sustained effects in preventing depression in teens at high risk for depressive illness, said William Beardslee, M.D., a professor of child psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues in JAMA Psychiatry.

The study included teens that were (a) offspring of parents with current or past depressive disorders, and (b) had themselves present or past depressive symptoms. The teens were randomly assigned to either (1) usual care, or (2) a cognitive-behavioral prevention (“CBP”) program. The CBP program involved eight weekly group sessions and six monthly group booster sessions, in which the teens learned how to deal with negative or unrealistic thoughts. The subjects were evaluated for depression at intervals over 33 months. Over the period, and for the sample as a whole, the intervention was significantly effective, with 37% of the teens in the CBP group experiencing a depression, compared with 48% in the usual-care group.

“We were quite pleased that the effects noted in our earlier analysis nine months after enrollment were sustained at 33 months, as it is difficult to demonstrate longer-term prevention effects,” Beardslee told Psychiatric News. At the nine-month follow-up, 21 percent of the teens randomized to the CBP condition had experienced depression, in contrast to 33 percent in the usual-care group.

During the past decade or so, there has been an explosion in mental illness prevention research such as that conducted by Beardslee and his colleagues. See the Psychiatric News article “Future Looks Promising for Mental Illness Prevention” to read more about the research. Also see “Maintenance Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Manualized Psychoeducation in the Treatment of Recurrent Depression…” in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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