School Adolescent Mood Project: Training School Personnel in an Evidence-based Depression Prevention Program

Statement of Problem

Adolescent depression has become a major public health concern as it grows in prevalence and we learn more about its associated adverse outcomes, such as suicide, educational underachievement and mental health issues later in life. Therefore, there is a critical need for the development and implementation of depression prevention programs, particularly in schools where youth are most likely to receive mental health services. School-based programs have the potential to prevent depression, promote healthy development and maximize school success.

One such program is Interpersonal Psychotherapy-Adolescent Skills Training (IPT-AST), a prevention intervention that teaches students communication and interpersonal problem-solving strategies to decrease conflict, increase support, and improve social functioning, vulnerability and protective factors for depression. Importantly, IPT-AST has proven to be highly acceptable among students, and has demonstrated robust effects. In three randomized controlled trials in middle and high schools, IPT-AST delivered by research clinicians was shown to be effective at reducing depression and anxiety symptoms, improving functioning, and promoting positive school outcomes, more so than usual school counseling and counselor-led groups that matched IPT-AST in frequency and length of sessions. While these results are very promising, demonstrating the effectiveness of school counselor-delivered IPT-AST is a crucial next step towards implementing it in schools.

Description

School Adolescent Mood Project: Training School Personnel in an Evidence-based Depression Prevention Program

school; depression; training; behavioral health; mental health; youth; teenagers
school; depression; training; behavioral health; mental health; youth; teenagers

Interpersonal Psychotherapy-Adolescent Skills Training teaches students communication and interpersonal problem-solving strategies to decrease conflict, increase support, and improve social functioning, vulnerability and protective factors for depression. 

The purpose of our study is to test the effectiveness of IPT-AST when delivered by school counselors in local schools. We will randomize counselors at each school to IPT-AST or services as usual (SAU), train counselors to deliver IPT-AST with fidelity, and then randomly assign adolescents with elevated symptoms of depression to IPT-AST or SAU. The study will measure social outcomes, emotional outcomes and school outcomes among adolescents. It will also assess acceptability, feasibility, fidelity and sustainability of the program, as well as costs and cost-effectiveness. This study will provide vital information on counselor-delivered IPT-AST and will promote the provision of more effective care in schools.

Next Steps

Our ultimate goal is to enable the dissemination of IPT-AST and other prevention programs in schools to promote positive social, emotional and school functioning for all youth. IPT-AST shows great potential as a depression prevention program. However, the promise of IPT-AST cannot be fully reached until we demonstrate that school providers can deliver the program with fidelity and that counselor-delivered IPT-AST results in positive and sustained effects on emotional and school outcomes compared to SAU.

This project page was last updated in January 2020.

Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. School Adolescent Mood Project: Training School Personnel in an Evidence-based Depression Prevention Program [Online]. Available at: http://www.policylab.chop.edu [Accessed: plug in date accessed here].