School-based health clinics are an important treatment setting for adolescents with mental health, and general medical problems

Adolescents who received interpersonal psychotherapy for depression at school-based health clinics had fewer symptoms of depression after 12 to 16 weeks than their peers who received other kinds of psychotherapy at school, according to an article in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Adolescent depression is a common disorder, affecting 1.6 percent to 8.9 percent of adolescents annually, but fewer than three of ten adolescents with mental health problems in the United States receive mental health services, the article states. Recently, school-based health clinics have become an important treatment setting for adolescents with mental health, and general medical problems. Interpersonal psychotherapy focuses on current problems and helps the patient improve interpersonal relationships and reduce depressive symptoms.

Laura Mufson, Ph.D., of New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, and colleagues assessed the effectiveness of interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT-A) for depressed adolescents compared to treatment as usual (TAU) for depressed adolescents at school-based mental health clinics.

The researchers studied 63 depressed adolescents at five school-based mental health clinics in New York City. The average age of the adolescents was 15.1 years, 84 percent were female, and 71 percent were Hispanic. Thirty-four adolescents were assigned to receive IPT-A (12 sessions over a 12- to 16-week period) and 29 were assigned to receive TAU at their school-based health clinics. TAU consisted of whatever psychological treatment the adolescents would have received had the study not been in place (generally, supportive, individual counseling).

"Adolescents treated with IPT-A compared with TAU showed greater symptom reduction and improvement in overall functioning," write the authors. The IPT-A group had fewer clinician-reported symptoms of depression, significantly better social functioning, greater clinical improvement and greater decrease in clinical severity of depression than adolescents treated with TAU.

"Interpersonal psychotherapy delivered in school-based health clinics is an effective therapy for adolescent depression," the researchers write.

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association

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