Effects of psychotherapy for depression in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis

Psychol Bull. 2006 Jan;132(1):132-49. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.132.1.132.


Serious sequelae of youth depression, plus recent concerns over medication safety, prompt growing interest in the effects of youth psychotherapy. In previous meta-analyses, effect sizes (ESs) have averaged .99, well above conventional standards for a large effect and well above mean ES for other conditions. The authors applied rigorous analytic methods to the largest study sample to date and found a mean ES of .34, not superior but significantly inferior to mean ES for other conditions. Cognitive treatments (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy) fared no better than noncognitive approaches. Effects showed both generality (anxiety was reduced) and specificity (externalizing problems were not), plus short- but not long-term holding power. Youth depression treatments appear to produce effects that are significant but modest in their strength, breadth, and durability.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome