Innovations in Practice: a pilot study of interpersonal psychotherapy for depressed adolescents and their parents

Gunlicks-Stoesselm, M. & Mufson, L. Child and Adolescent Mental Health. Published online: 9 May 2016

Background: Problems in adolescents’ relationships with their parents are a significant risk factor for the development and maintenance of depression. The purpose of this pilot study was to examine the feasibility and acceptability of an adaptation of interpersonal psychotherapy for depressed adolescents (IPT-A) who were also experiencing problems in their relationships with parents. The adaptation includes greater and more structured parent involvement in the treatment (IPT-AP).

Method: Fifteen adolescents (age 12–17) who were diagnosed with depression and were also experiencing conflictual or emotionally disengaged relationships with their parents (based on adolescent or parent report on the Conflict Behavior Questionnaire) participated in a 16 week randomized clinical trial of individually delivered IPT-A versus IPT-AP. Data regarding the feasibility and acceptability of IPT-AP were collected. Assessments of depression and family functioning were completed at baseline and weeks 4, 8, 12, and 16 by evaluators blind to treatment condition.

Results: IPT-AP was feasible to implement, and adolescents and parents reported high treatment satisfaction. Adolescents demonstrated significant improvements in depressive symptoms, general functioning, and family functioning. IPT-AP was more efficacious than individual IPT-A in improving adolescents’ perceptions of father–adolescent relations and mothers’ perceptions of mother–adolescent relations.

Conclusions: Interpersonal psychotherapy for depressed adolescents and their parents was feasible to implement and acceptable to families, indicating that a full-scale randomized controlled trial to evaluate its efficacy is warranted.

Read the abstract here

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