Psychotherapy is widely used for depressed adolescents, but evidence supporting its efficacy is sparse.
In a controlled, 12-week, clinical trial of Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Depressed Adolescents (IPT-A), 48 clinic-referred adolescents (aged 12-18 years) who met the criteria for DSM-III-R major depressive disorder were randomly assigned to either weekly IPT-A or clinical monitoring. Patients were seen biweekly by a "blind" independent evaluator to assess their symptoms, social functioning, and social problem-solving skills. Thirty-two of the 48 patients completed the protocol (21 IPT-A–assigned patients and 11 patients in the control group).
Patients who received IPT-A reported a notably greater decrease in depressive symptoms and greater improvement in overall social functioning, functioning with friends, and specific problem-solving skills. In the intent-to-treat sample, 18 (75%) of 24 patients who received IPT-A compared with 11 patients (46%) in the control condition met recovery criterion (Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression score ≤6) at week 12.
These preliminary findings support the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of 12 weeks of IPT-A in acutely depressed adolescents in reducing depressive symptoms and improving social functioning and interpersonal problem-solving skills. Because it is a small sample consisting largely of Latino, low socioeconomic status adolescents, further studies must be conducted with other adolescent populations to confirm the generalizability of the findings.