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Does Homework “Matter” in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adolescent Depression?

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Objective: Examine the degree to which homework completion is associated with various indices of clinical improvement in adolescents with depression treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) either as a monotherapy and in combination with antidepressant medication. Method: This study used data from the Treatment of Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS), which compared the efficacy of CBT, fluoxetine (FLX), the combination of CBT and FLX (COMB), and a pill placebo (PBO; TADS Team, 2003, 2004, 2005). Current analyses included only TADS participants in the CBT (n = 111) or COMB (n = 107) conditions. Analyses focused on the relations between partial and full homework completion and a dichotomized measure of clinical response, evaluator and self-report ratings of depressive symptoms, hopelessness, and suicidality. Results: Homework completion significantly predicted clinical improvement, decrease in self-reported hopelessness, suicidality, and depression—but not in evaluator-rated depressive symptoms—in adolescents treated with CBT only. These relationships were almost completely absent in the COMB condition. The only significant COMB finding was that partially completed homework was related to decrease in hopelessness over time. Conclusions: These findings suggest that the ability of therapists and clients to collaboratively develop and complete between-session assignments is associated with response to CBT, self-report of severity of depressive symptoms, hopelessness, and suicidality and may be integral to optimizing the effects of CBT when delivered as a monotherapy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2012

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