Evidence-Based Mental Health Treatment for Children and Adolescents
ABCT:::Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies SCCAP:::Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
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Depression & Related Disorders
  •   Major Depressive Disorder
  •   Dysthymic Disorder
  •   Adjustment Disorder


  • Sadness, hopelessness, and depression are among the most common symptoms of child and adolescent depression and related disorders. Please refer to the sections below (as well as to the right menu box) for more information about these difficulties and to learn about the best-supported treatment options.

    What is Depression?

    Although it is common for most children and teenagers to feel down or sad sometimes, a smaller number of youth experience a more severe phenomenon known as depression. Such young people, who are often described as "clinically" depressed, feel sad, hopeless, or irritable for weeks or even months at a time. They may lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy (e.g., playing with friends), their sleeping and eating habits often change (i.e., they may eat or sleep either more or less than usual), and they may have trouble thinking or paying attention, even to TV programs or games.

    Of particular concern, youths who are clinically depressed may think or talk a lot about death and some depressed children have more specific thoughts about hurting or killing themselves. Often children and teenagers may have similar symptoms when they are grieving the loss of someone close to them. In clinical depression, however, these thoughts and feelings tend to appear even when the child has not experienced a loss or a sad event. To learn more about various forms of depression, please click on the links to the right.

    As can be seen below, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) currently has the most research evidence for the treatment of depression in children, and CBT and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) are preferred therapies for adolescent depression. Treatments can be administered in a variety of different formats, each of which has varying levels of research support.
    What does this mean?
    Probably Efficacious
    What does this mean?
    Possibly Efficacious
    What does this mean?
    • CBT group, child only
    • CBT child group, plus parent component
    Behavior Therapy N/A
    • Adolescent CBT group, plus parent component
    • Individual CBT
    • Individual CBT, plus parent/family component

    Source: David-Ferndon, C., Kaslow, N. J. (2008). Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for child and adolescent depression. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 37, 62-104.

    Note: Evidence for efficacious interventions that reduce depression is based on data indicating significant reductions in depressive symptoms and/or depressive disorder diagnoses. Accordingly, it should be noted that some of the data used to support the interventions listed above are based on clinically-referred and/or school-based normative samples of youth.



    Last updated: 07/30/2010
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