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Publication #FAR2000

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps Depressed Teens1

Carol Church2

Figure 1. 
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Teen depression is distressingly common with as many as two million teens suffering from a major episode every year (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2009). No one wants to see their child suffering, but many parents have mixed feelings about using medication, while others wonder if therapy can really work.

Fortunately, progress has been made in the treatment of this serious problem. For instance, a 2009 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that for at least some depressed teens, a specific therapy can be very effective. The method is known as cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, and it’s a short-term treatment aimed at learning to notice and change repetitive and destructive thought patterns (Garber et al., 2009).

All the approximately 300 teens in this study either had mild depression or had suffered from major depression before; none were taking antidepressants. Half participated in about 10 months of CBT, learning how to recognize and transform their negative thought patterns, while the others continued their usual care (Garber et al., 2009).

Results revealed that CBT was quite effective in lowering the teens’ depression rates. But there was a twist: CBT only worked for teens whose parents were not depressed (Garber et al., 2009).

These results are both encouraging and thought-provoking, reminding parents of the importance of their own mental health. Depression runs strongly in families, and children of depressed parents run a significantly higher risk of developing it (Garber et al., 2009). If you have questions about how to recognize and treat depression in yourself or your teen, speak to a physician.

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Garber, J., Clarke, G. N., Weersing, V. R., Beardslee, W. R., Brent, D. A., Gladstone, T. R., et al. (2009). Prevention of depression in at-risk adolescents: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 301(21), 2215-2224. doi: 10.1001/jama.2009.788.



This document is FAR2000, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original broadcast date Marcy 20, 2011 as program 1624. Published on EDIS March 2013. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Carol Church, writer, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.