Context: Childhood mood disorders lack sufficient evidence-based treatments. While psychosocial treatments are recommended for both childhood depression and bipolar disorder, empirical support is scarce.
Objective: To determine whether adjunctive multifamily psychoeducational psychotherapy would improve outcome for children aged 8 to 12 years with depression or bipolar disorder.
Design: One hundred sixty-five children were studied in a randomized controlled trial of multifamily psychoeducational psychotherapy plus treatment as usual (n = 78) compared with a wait-list control (WLC) condition plus treatment as usual (n = 87). Assessments occurred at baseline and at 6, 12, and 18 months. Intervention occurred between baseline and 6 months for the immediate treatment group and between 12 and 18 months for the WLC group.
Setting: University medical center.
Participants: Children were recruited from mental health and physical health care providers, media contacts, and word of mouth. All had a major mood disorder (major depressive disorder or dysthymic disorder, 30%; bipolar disorder type I, type II, or not otherwise specified, 70%). Intervention Children and 1 or more parents participated in eight 90-minute multifamily psychoeducational psychotherapy sessions. Parent and child groups met separately but began and ended sessions together.
Main outcome measures: The Mood Severity Index (MSI) combines Mania Rating Scale and Children's Depression Rating Scale-Revised scores.
Results: Multifamily psychoeducational psychotherapy plus treatment as usual was associated with lower MSI scores at follow-up in intent-to-treat analyses compared with WLC plus treatment as usual (MSI: chi(2)(1) = 4.55; P = .03). The WLC group showed a similar decrease in MSI scores 1 year later, when also following their treatment (MSI decrease = 3.24 units per 6 months in the immediate treatment group and 3.50 units per 6 months in the WLC group).
Conclusion: Brief, adjunctive psychoeducational group psychotherapy is associated with improved outcome for children aged 8 to 12 years with major mood disorders. Trial Registration clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00050557.