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Psychologists Develop New Ways to Treat Youth Anxiety and Depression

Update Date: Jul 11, 2012 02:44 PM EDT

It is estimated that 19 million people in the United States are affected by depression each year and up to 22 percent of children suffer from anxiety, often combined with other conditions such as depression. Eleven percent of Americans over age 12 take antidepressants according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, but now, researchers are saying that "most existing therapies are not designed to treat co-existing psychological problems and are therefore not very successful in helping children with complex emotional issues."

To help alleviate that issue, psychologists have developed a new program called Emotion Detectives Treatment Protocol (EDTP) and they say "preliminary findings show a significant reduction in the severity of anxiety and depression after treatment, as reported by the children and their parents."

"We are very excited about the potential of EDTP," Jill Ehrenreich-May, University of Miami psychologist said.  "Not only could the protocol better address the needs of youth with commonly co-occurring disorders and symptoms, it may also provide additional benefits to mental health professionals. EDTP offers a more unified approach to treatment which, we hope, will allow for an efficient and cost-effective treatment option for clinicians and clients alike."

The study is published online ahead of print in the journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Practice.

According to researchers, the program implements age-appropriate techniques that deliver education about emotions and how to manage them, strategies for evaluating situations, problem solving skills, behavior activation and parent training.

Researchers tested the program on 22 children ages 7 to 12 with a principal diagnosis of anxiety disorder and secondary issues of depression. The children participated in a 15-session weekly group therapy of EDTP. Of the 18 children who completed the study, 14 no longer met criteria for anxiety.

Researchers say the findings imply that EDTP may offer a better treatment option for children experiencing anxiety and depression.

"Previous research has shown that depressive symptoms tend to weaken treatment response for anxiety disorders," Emily L. Bilek, another University of Miami psychologist said. "We were hopeful that a broader, more generalized approach would better address this common co-occurrence. We were not surprised to find that the EDTP had equivalent outcomes for individuals with and without elevated depressive symptoms, but we were certainly pleased to find that this protocol may address this important issue."

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