Reducing risk for anxiety and depression in adolescents: Effects of a single-session intervention teaching that personality can change

Behav Res Ther. 2016 Dec;87:170-181. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2016.09.011. Epub 2016 Sep 26.


Efforts to reduce youth mental health problems have advanced greatly but have not lowered overall rates of youth mental illness. Thus, a need exists for disseminable, mechanism-targeted approaches to reducing risk of youth psychopathology. Accordingly, we conducted a randomized-controlled trial testing whether a single-session intervention teaching growth personality mindsets (the belief that personality is malleable) reduced known risk factors for anxiety and depression in adolescents experiencing or at risk for internalizing problems (N = 96, ages 12-15). Compared to a supportive-therapy control, a 30-min computer-guided mindset intervention strengthened adolescents' perceived control; this improvement was associated with increases in growth mindsets. Further, electrodermal activity recovery slopes showed that youths receiving the mindset intervention recovered from a lab-based social stressor over three times as fast as control group youths. Improvements in growth mindsets and perceived control were linked with faster stress recovery. Results suggest a disseminable strategy for reducing internalizing problem risk among adolescents.

Keywords: Adolescence; Anxiety; Depression; Intervention; Mediation; Mindset; Youth.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / physiology
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Child
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality*
  • Psychotherapy, Brief*
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted