CBT Program Benefits Youth At Risk for Depression For Years

At-risk youth who take part in a cognitive-behavioral prevention (CBP) program for depression still benefit from the intervention for years afterwards..

David A. Brent, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues, enrolled 316 teens (aged between 13 and 17 years of age) who has at least one parent with a current or prior depression. Participants were randomly assigned to either eight weekly 90-minute group session follow by six monthly continuation session, or usual care.  

Over a follow-up period of six years, the youths in the CBP group has a lower incidence of depression compared with the usual care group, the researchers reported in JAMA Psychiatry.

Over a follow-up period of 75 months (with 88 percent retention), youths assigned to CBP had a lower incidence of depression. The lower incidence of depression in the CBP group was seen nine month after enrollment. In addition, a benefit was seen in children whose parent was not depressed at enrollment time.

“Overall, these findings demonstrate the effectiveness of CBP for preventing depression and promoting competence, but they also highlight 3 potential improvements to CBP. First, the main beneficial effect on the onset of new depression episodes occurred over the course of the intervention, suggesting that booster sessions might help extend these effects on new onsets even further in time,” the authors wrote. “Second, CBP was not effective if the index parent was depressed at baseline, highlighting the possible importance of treating parental depression, either prior to or concomitant with their children’s participation in the CBP program.

“Third, CBP is focused exclusively on the adolescent. Interventions that also improve parenting and the quality of the parent-child relationship have been shown to have long-lasting benefits on a range of both externalizing and internalizing symptoms. Nevertheless, the current findings showed that CBP forms the basis of a promising intervention and that the prevention of depression is possible and can have longer-term developmental consequences.”


Brent DA, et al. Effect of a Cognitive-Behavioral Prevention Program on Depression 6 Years After Implementation Among At-Risk Adolescents. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015; doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1559.