Contextual Emotion-Regulation Therapy for Childhood Depression: Description and Pilot Testing of a New Intervention

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Abstract

Objective:

To pilot test the acceptability and efficacy of contextual emotion-regulation therapy (CERT), a new, developmentally appropriate intervention for childhood depression, which focuses on the self-regulation of dysphoria.

Method:

Two samples of convenience (n = 29, n = 2) served to verify some CERT constructs; it was then operationalized in a treatment manual. To pilot test CERT, 20 children (ages 7-12; 35% girls) with DSM dysthymic disorder (mean duration 24.4 months) entered an open, 30-session, 10-month, 4-phase trial, with 6- and 12-month follow-up. Assessments included independent clinical evaluations and self-rated questionnaires.

Results:

Fifteen children completed theraphy, four were administratively terminated and one dropped out. Completers did not clinically differ from the rest, but they were more likely to have better educated and less depressed mothers and intact families. At the end of treatment, 53% of the completers had full and 13% partial remission of dysthymia (remission from superimposed major depression was 80%). By 6- and 12-month follow-up, 79% and 92% had full remission of dysthymia (p < 0.0001). Self-reported depressive and anxiety symptoms significantly declined by the end of treatment (p < .001) and remained so throughout follow-up.

Conclusions:

CERT enables clinicians to "match" the intervention to children's emotion regulatory needs and symptoms and was readily accepted by families. The promising results suggest the need for a randomized trial.

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