Arin M. Connell, Ph.D.

Fellow in Child & Adolescent Depression

Project Details


Thomas J. Dishion, Ph.D.


University of Oregon


Development of an ecologically-based family intervention program for adolescent depression


Development of an ecologically-based family intervention program for adolescent depression


Separate lines of research have documented that:
(1) youth depression in associated with problematic family functioning;
(2) that impaired family functioning is associated with poorer outcomes from individual psychotherapy with depressed youth;
(3) that parental engagement has been extremely low with family-treatment components in past research.

As such, the field stands to benefit from the development of alternative interventions that might enhance family engagement in treatment.

The goal of the current research is pilot-test such a contextually-sensitive family intervention for depression in youth. The intervention will be based on a long-standing research program by Dr. Dishion focused on the development of the Adolescent Transitions Program, an ecologically-based treatment model for adolescent conduct problems and substance use.

The assessment-driven intervention targets family processes related to high-risk development, and uses motivational interviewing techniques to enhance family engagement and trigger the behavior change process. In several trials, this intervention has proven successful in increasing parental engagement in treatment, promoting healthy parenting practices, and ultimately in reducing conduct problems and substance use in adolescence (Dishion & Kavanagh, 2003). This intervention approach has not yet been extended to specifically target the risk for depression in youth.

Ultimately, a family-oriented intervention framework based on motivational interviewing principles may lead to improved treatment outcomes for depressed children and adolescents. During the first year of the study-period, an intervention protocol will be developed, and during years one and two of the study, the intervention will be pilot-tested with 30 families of adolescents (ages 13 to 17) reporting elevated symptoms of depression.

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