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Family focused therapy shortens recovery time from depression but not mania in adolescents with bipolar disorder

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Does family focused therapy in combination with medication speed up recovery and reduce time to recurrence in adolescents with bipolar disorder?


58 adolescents, aged 12–18 years, with DSM-IV bipolar I (n = 38), bipolar II (n = 6) or bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (n = 14), with a mood episode in the past 3 months (see online notes for exclusion criteria).


Colorado and Pittsburgh, USA; recruited October 2002 to September 2005.


Pharmacotherapy plus either family focused therapy for adolescents (FFT-A) or enhanced care (EC). FFT-A involved 50 min sessions with the patient, parent and available siblings for 9 months (21 sessions in total: 12 weekly, six fortnightly and then 3 monthly). Sessions focused on education about bipolar disorder, communication skills and problem solving skills. EC involved three 50 min sessions of education with the patient, parent and available siblings, with sessions focusing on planning to prevent relapse, adherence to pharmacotherapy and reducing conflict at home. Pharmacotherapy included effective medications for bipolar disorder plus antidepressants and medications for …

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  • Source of funding: National Institute of Mental Health, USA.


  • Competing interests: None.