Child- and Family-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Pediatric Bipolar Disorder: Applications for Suicide Prevention

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Despite high rates of suicide ideation (SI) and behavior in youth with pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD), little work has examined how psychosocial interventions impact suicidality among this high-risk group. The current study examined SI outcomes in a randomized clinical trial comparing Child- and Family-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CFF-CBT) for PBD versus psychotherapy treatment-as-usual (TAU). Although not designed for suicide prevention, CFF-CBT addresses child and family factors related to suicide risk and thus was hypothesized to generalize to the treatment of suicidality. Participants included 71 youth aged 7–13 years (M = 9.17, SD = 1.60) with DSM-IV-TR bipolar I, II, or not otherwise specified randomly assigned, with parent(s), to receive CFF-CBT or TAU. Both treatments consisted of 12 weekly and 6 monthly booster sessions. Suicide ideation was assessed via clinician interview at baseline, posttreatment, and 6-month follow-up. Results indicated that SI was prevalent pretreatment: 39% of youth reported current suicidal thoughts. All youth significantly improved in the likelihood and intensity of ideation across treatment, but group differences were not significant. Thus, findings suggest that early intervention for these high-risk youth may reduce SI, and at this stage of suicidality, youth may be responsive to even nonspecialized treatment.

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