Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be more efficacious than alternative psychosocial interventions for the acute treatment of adolescents with major depressive disorder. However, the long-term impact of brief psychosocial interventions on the course of adolescent depression is not well established.
One hundred seven adolescents with major depressive disorder randomly assigned to 12 to 16 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, systemic behavioral family therapy, or nondirective supportive therapy were evaluated for 2 years after the psychotherapy trial to document the subsequent course and predictors of major depressive disorder.
There were no long-term differential effects of the 3 psychotherapies. Most participants (80%) recovered (median time, 8.2 months from baseline), and 30% had a recurrence (median time, 4.2 months from recovery). Twenty-one percent were depressed during at least 80% of the follow-up period. Severity of depression (at baseline) and presence of self-reported parent-child conflict (at baseline and during the follow-up period) predicted lack of recovery, chronicity, and recurrence. Despite the similarity to clinically referred patients at baseline, patients recruited via advertisement were less likely to experience a recurrence.
There were no significant differences in long-term outcome among cognitive behavioral therapy, systematic behavioral family therapy, and nondirective supportive therapy. While most participants in this study eventually recovered, those with severe depression and self-perceived parent-child conflict are at greater risk for chronic depression and recurrences.