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01-10-2009 | Mental health | Article

Childhood major mood disorders improved by multifamily psychotherapy


Free abstract

MedWire News: Children aged 8–12 years with major mood disorders experience improved outcomes with brief, adjunctive multifamily psychoeducational group psychotherapy, conclude US researchers.

Mood disorders in youth are a major health concern, yet there are few established treatments. Psychosocial treatments are recommended for childhood depression and bipolar disorder; however, evidence to support these recommendations is lacking.

To investigate the benefits of adjunctive multifamily psychoeducational psychotherapy, Mary Fristad, from Ohio State University in Columbus, and colleagues randomly assigned 165 children aged 8–12 years with depression or bipolar disorder to receive multifamily psychoeducational psychotherapy plus treatment as usual or a wait-list control condition plus treatment as usual.

The treatment consisted of eight 90-minute sessions with the child and at least one parent, combining psychoeducation, family systems, and cognitive behavioral psychotherapy in order to learn about mood disorders and their treatment, gain support from other families, and build skills. Participants were assessed at baseline and after 6, 12, and 18 months, with the intervention applied to the treatment group between baseline and 6 months, and between 12 and 18 months for the control group.

On intention-to-treat analysis, intervention patients experienced a 6.48-point greater decrease in Mood Severity Index (MSI) scores over the first 12 months compared with controls, at an effect size of 0.53. Although control patients experienced a nonsignificant increase in scores over the final 6 months of treatment, the rate of improvement was similar to that seen in the intervention group, at 7.00 and 6.48 points per year, respectively.

Focusing on patients who completed treatment, the team found similar results to those observed on the intention-to-treat analysis, but with a larger effect, such that intervention patients had an 8.17-point greater decrease in MSI scores versus controls over the first 12 months, at an effect size of 0.68.

Noting the benefits of the intervention, the team concludes in the Archives of General Psychiatry: “Clinicians who treat children can incorporate cognitive behavior and family systems components of multifamily psychoeducational psychotherapy into their practice.

“Researchers who investigate psychosocial interventions for mood disorders may consider comparing the relative efficacy of multifamily psychoeducational psychotherapy with that of other psychosocial interventions for children with depression and bipolar disorder as well as possible moderators and mediators of treatment.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a part of Springer Science+Business Media. © Current Medicine Group Ltd; 2009

By Liam Davenport

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