Behavioral Activation Therapy for Child and Teen Depression

Seattle Children's is conducting a research study to learn more about a new form of psychotherapy called Behavioral Activation Therapy. This therapy may help children and teens who are coping with depression.

Who can take part in the research study?

Children and teens who can take part in the study are:

  • Between the ages of 11 and 18
  • Experiencing depression
  • Have no major medical illnesses

What is involved in the research study?

Children and teens who take part in the study will be assigned to one of three treatment groups:

  • Individual Behavioral Activation Therapy (BA)
  • Family-based Behavioral Activation Therapy (FBBA)
  • Treatment As Usual (TAU)

We will ask children and teens in all groups to complete a 12-week (14-session) course of therapy. Parents will take part in some (BA and TAU) or all (FBBA) treatment sessions. Parents and their child or teen will complete a series of interviews and answer written questions at the beginning, middle and end of treatment, as well as at three months and nine months after treatment.

What are the benefits of taking part in this research study?

Children and teens who enroll in the study will receive all treatment free of charge and learn ways to help manage their depression. Children and teens will receive a total of $100 for completing interviews, answering questions at the beginning, middle and end of treatment, and again at three and nine months after treatment. Taking part will also help researchers learn more about this new kind of psychotherapy for children and teens so that other children and teens can be better helped in the future.

How much time will it take to take part in this research study?

The interviews and evaluations vary in the amount of time they take to complete, but will usually take about one hour for parents and two hours for children and teens. Most therapy sessions will last about 50 to 60 minutes; however, a few sessions will last 90 minutes.

What happens after the research study is over?

If a child or teen and their parents want the participant to continue in treatment after the study is over, we will give referrals for ongoing treatment. This treatment, however, may not be with your study therapist or in the Children's system. Families would have to pay for the ongoing therapy. 

Why is this research study important?

This study is important because depression affects the lives of many children and teens. Research suggests one in five children and teens will have at least one episode of clinical depression by age 18, and that depression interferes with their school, social and family life. Plus, depression is also a risk factor for alcohol and drug abuse and suicide. Yet treatments currently available, such as "talk therapy" and medicines, are only effective for 60% to 70% of teens. New forms of treatment, such as Behavioral Activation Therapy, are crucial to help treat more depressed children and teens.

Who is funding this research study?

This study is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Seattle Children's.

Where does the research study take place?

All study assessments and treatment sessions will take place at Seattle Children's. After the initial visits, therapy visits can also be scheduled at  Seattle Children's Bellevue Clinic  or  Odessa Brown Children's Clinic .

How many children and teens will take part in this research study?

Seventy-five children and teens will take part in this research study (25 in each of the three study groups).

Whom can I contact for more information about this study?

For more information, contact  Gretchen Gudmundsen, PhD , postdoctoral psychology fellow, at 206-987-1439.  Elizabeth McCauley, PhD , and  Kelly Schloredt, PhD , are the principal investigators for Children's research team.