“During this period of development, a strategy that formally integrates the family within treatment and provides specific and tailored skills and strategies for managing stress could have some advantage over a less structured, supportive approach,” Martha Tompson, Ph.D., of Boston University and colleagues wrote.
Family-focused treatment for child depression (FFT-CD) aims to assist families in developing skills to combat depression in their child. The technique incorporates several strategies to foster positive and supportive parent-child interactions as well as techniques aimed at boosting skills for communication, coping with stress, and regulating emotions.
For the study, Tompson and colleagues randomly assigned 134 youth aged 7 to 14 who had a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, or depressive disorder–not otherwise specified to receive 15 sessions of IP or FFT-CD over four months. Children who had thought, conduct, or other disturbances that would interfere with participation (like psychotic disorders, severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, or active substance use disorder) were excluded.
After four months, children in the FFT-CD group showed a higher rate of clinical depression response (at least a 50% decrease in their Children’s Depression Rating Scale–Revised score) than the IP group (77.7% versus 59.9%, respectively). Parents also reported that the FFT-CD helped them better understand their child’s depression and manage it at home.
Both treatments were similar in the other outcomes, which included the reductions in depressive symptom scores over time and overall parent/child satisfaction with the intervention.
“Overall, our findings emphasize the value of psychosocial interventions in the treatment of depressive disorders in childhood,” Tompson and colleagues concluded.
To read more about family-focused therapies, see the Psychiatric News article “Family-Based Intervention May Help Prevent Anxiety Disorders in Children.”