Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy to Prevent Relapse in Pediatric Responders to Pharmacotherapy for Major Depressive Disorder

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We present results of a feasibility test of a sequential treatment strategy using continuation phase cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to prevent relapse in youths with major depressive disorder (MDD) who have responded to acute phase pharmacotherapy.


Forty-six youths (ages 11-18 years) who had responded to 12 weeks of treatment with fluoxetine were randomized to receive either 6 months of continued antidepressant medication management (MM) or antidepressant MM plus relapse prevention CBT (MM+CBT). Primary outcome was time to relapse, defined as a Childhood Depression Rating Scale-Revised score of 40 or higher and 2 weeks of symptom worsening or clinical deterioration warranting alteration of treatment to prevent full relapse.


Cox proportional hazards regression, adjusting for depression severity at randomization and for the hazard of relapsing by age across the trial, revealed that participants in the MM treatment group had a significantly greater risk for relapse than those in the MM+CBT treatment group (hazard ratio = 8.80; 95% confidence interval 1.01-76.89; χ2 = 3.86, p =.049) during 6 months of continuation treatment. In addition, patient satisfaction was significantly higher in the MM+CBT group. No differences were found between the two treatment groups on attrition rate, serious adverse events, and overall global functioning.


These preliminary results suggest that continuation phase CBT reduces the risk for relapse by eightfold compared with pharmacotherapy responders who received antidepressant medication alone during the 6-month continuation phase.


Clinical Trials Registry: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression Relapse Prevention in Children and Adolescents. URL: Unique identifier: NCT00158301.

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