Teenagers whose parents have a history of depression are two to three times more likely to develop the disease. But a new study finds that cognitive behavioral therapy can reduce the risk of depressive episodes.
Researchers from four U.S. cities conducted the study, published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. More than 300 teens participated. Researchers provided half of the teens with eight weeks of 90-minute cognitive behavioral therapy, followed by six monthly follow-up sessions. The therapy focused on how thoughts can cause feelings and behaviors. Teens learned how to manage unrealistic and negative thoughts, as well as relaxation and assertiveness skills.
Compared to the teens who did not participate in the therapy, those who did had almost 12 percent fewer episodes of depression and reported having less depressive symptoms. The therapy was particularly helpful for teens who did not have a parent who was currently suffering from depression.
For those who did have a parent with depression, the benefits were not as significant. Researchers suspect this is because those parents were less able to reinforce the skills learned or because the home life was too stressful for the child to practice the new skills.
Researchers said the cognitive behavioral therapy could be used by school counselors or nurse practitioners, making it a cost-effective way to help prevent teens from suffering from depressive episodes, possibly without the need for medication.