Improving care. Changing lives.

Prevention of Depression (POD)

Co-Principal Investigator: Tracy R.G. Gladstone, Ph.D.
Project Director: Phyllis Rothberg, LICSW

Part of a national multi-state study, this research examines the effectiveness of a group, cognitive-behavioral prevention program that provides strategies to deal with stress and avoid depression to adolescents (ages 13-17) with a family history of depression.  

As part of the project, small groups of teens attended 8 weekly sessions and 6 monthly follow-up sessions run by a clinician, where they learned classic cognitive-behavioral skills to cope with typical adolescent pressures and tensions unique to growing up with a depressed parent.  Additional funding has just been secured to follow these same adolescents across the transition to young adulthood, to determine the long-term effects of participating in this prevention program. (Previously known as TEAMS, Teen Achieving Mastery over Stress.)

Adolescent depression is a problem of major proportions. It is a common disorder with a chronic, episodic course marked by frequent recurrence and considerable impairment. An estimated 20 percent of adolescents will have had a depressive disorder by the time they are 18 years old, with the average episode lasting between 6 and 8 months. A majority will experience another episode in their adult life. Furthermore, most cases of recurrent adult depression have their initial onset during adolescence.
The cost to these teens and families is high. Adolescent depression is associated with difficulties in school, interpersonal relationships, tobacco and substance abuse, suicide attempts, and a 30-fold increased risk of completed suicide.

However, there is hope. Part of a national multi-state study, POD provides strategies to deal with stress and avoid depression to adolescents (ages 13-17) with a family history of depression. The POD program is based on prior research conducted in Portland, Oregon in which researchers found that teens who learned such strategies by participating in cognitive-behavioral prevention groups had a significantly lower prospective incidence of depression over time.  Families who enrolled in the POD project were assigned randomly to either the active treatment condition or to a treatment-as-usual (control) condition.  Teens whose families were assigned to the active treatment group attended 8 weekly sessions and 6 monthly follow-up sessions run by a clinician, where they learned classic cognitive-behavioral skills to cope with typical adolescent pressures and tensions unique to growing up with a depressed parent  Teens in the control condition did not participate in any prevention groups.  All families participated in the assessment process.

Currently, families who participated in the POD project are completing long-term follow-up assessment meetings with our research team.  We are currently seeking additional funding to follow POD families over time, in order to learn more about any long-term benefits associated with group participation.