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Family Therapy Aids Youth at High Risk for Bipolar Disorder

Times between mood episodes longer for those in family-focused therapy versus enhanced usual care

parental talk

TUESDAY, Jan. 28, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Among symptomatic youths at high risk for bipolar disorder, times between mood episodes are longer for those receiving family-focused therapy (FFT) compared with enhanced usual care, according to a study published online Jan. 15 in JAMA Psychiatry.

David J. Miklowitz, Ph.D., from the University of California in Los Angeles, and colleagues randomly assigned high-risk youths and their parents to either FFT (12 sessions in four months of psychoeducation, communication training, and problem-solving skills training) or enhanced care (six sessions in four months of family and individual psychoeducation). Participating youth (aged 9 to 17 years) had major depressive disorder or unspecified (subthreshold) bipolar disorder, active mood symptoms, and at least one first- or second-degree relative with bipolar disorder I or II. There were 61 participants in the FFT group and 66 in the enhanced care group. All had been referred for care and were followed for four years.

The researchers found no differences between treatments in time to recovery from pretreatment symptoms. Compared with youth in enhanced care, youth in the FFT group had longer intervals from recovery to the emergence of the next mood episode (hazard ratio [HR], 0.55) and from random assignment to the next mood episode (HR, 0.59). While FFT was associated with longer intervals to depressive episodes (HR, 0.53), the groups did not differ in time to manic or hypomanic episodes, conversions to bipolar disorder, or symptom trajectories.

"Involving the parents in the child's therapy teaches family members how to create a more protective environment so that kids can stay well for longer," Miklowitz said in a statement.

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