Brain, Nervous System and Mental Conditions

Depression Treament

Our Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine team will work with you and your child to develop a treatment plan that responds to your child's needs and symptoms.

All of our approaches are designed to be brief. They typically involve three months of weekly therapy focused on learning coping skills. The goal is to get your child back to doing the things that give them joy. Parents are actively involved in each type of treatment.

Each of the treatments we offer is supported by evidence that it is effective. Your child's treatment may involve one or more of these approaches:

What is behavioral activation (BA) therapy?

Behavioral activation therapy is a form of treatment for depression based on the idea that you can change how you feel by changing what you do. It is a brief intervention that focuses on increasing engagement in positive activities as a way to overcome depression.

Two things happen when young people begin to feel depressed - life feels less rewarding and they begin to avoid the people, places and activities that typically bring them joy and a sense of accomplishment.

The BA therapist will work with your child to help identify activities that they find rewarding. Then they will work with your child to overcome obstacles to doing the things that help them feel better. For example, the goal may be spending more time with peers. To do this, your child may need help taking small steps to gain confidence in social interactions.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)?

CBT is a treatment that is based on understanding how what you think affects how you feel. The therapist will help your child learn about the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

CBT can help your child or teen replace negative or unhelpful thinking with helpful or coping thoughts. This can lead to changes in feelings and behavior.

The therapist works together with your child to help them learn and practice new skills. This includes challenging automatic thoughts and finding new ways to think about and interpret situations. It often also involves some behavioral activation. Your child may be asked to complete homework or practice between sessions.

CBT is used for a set length of time and is focused on meeting your child's goals.

What is interpersonal psychotherapy?

The focus of interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is on understanding how a child's or teen's symptoms are affected by their relationships with family and peers. It is useful when depression is based on conflicts and lack of social support.

The therapist works with your child to build interpersonal skills. This usually also involves helping your child understand automatic thoughts and generate alternatives. It may also involve elements of cognitive behavioral therapy.

What is dialectical behavior therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment that is used when suicidality, self-harm or other high-risk behavior is the main ongoing issue.

DBT involves:

  • Weekly individual therapy with a Seattle Children's DBT therapist
  • Weekly patient and multiple-family skills groups for teens and parents to learn DBT skills
  • Phone coaching between sessions to learn how to use new skills during challenging moments

You and your teen will learn how to be more aware of your emotions and patterns of behavior (mindfulness) in order to make wise, thoughtful choices. In order to build a life worth living, you and your teen will also learn how to:

  • Manage emotions
  • Cope with distress
  • Form positive relationships

Is medicine part of the treatment?

Medicines can be an important part of a treatment plan. There is good evidence that antidepressants such as Prozac can be helpful for kids and teens when it is combined with another form of treatment. Medicines do have side effects, and they don't work for everyone. Not every child needs medicine.