Dr William R. Beardslee and his team found that after nine months of group cognitive behavioural therapy sessions, there was a reduced risk of depression which continued to drop even two years after the sessions had ended.
The children were split into two groups. One group was assigned to an eight week therapy programme which involved one 90-minute group CBT session a week. The other group received standard care.
All children had symptoms of depression, but they did not have diagnosable depressive disorders. The children’s moods were then tracked via reporting from both the children and their parents.
Over a period of 33 months (eight weeks of CBT and a two year follow-up period), 48% of the standard care group reported at least one depressive episode, compared to only 37% of the therapy session group.
However, this difference was only reported in the children whose parents had been clinically depressed at the time the study began.
“First, we need to understand how current parental depression is related to differential outcomes,” Dr Beardslee told Reuters Health. “Then, we need to target these factors to reduce their effects on child outcome.”
The scientist admitted he was pleased with the sustained effect the therapy seemed to have on some of the children.
Other similar studies fail to follow participants up to see whether the group CBT sessions impact their long-term mental health.
Cognitive behavioural therapy helps patients develop a better understanding of their own thoughts and attitudes and how these affect how they feel and act in certain situations. This can help them to learn practical methods of improving their lives and turning negative thoughts and outcomes into positive ones.
While CBT seemed to be effective for children who already had depression, it was not so effective at preventing it in at-risk teens.
The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Depression doesn’t just impact the life of the sufferer, it also affects the friends, family and colleagues around them. If you would like to find out more about how counselling (which often includes CBT) can help, please visit our page on Depression.
View and comment on the original Reuters Health article.