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Pilot mixed-methods evaluation of interpersonal counselling for young people with depressive symptoms in non-specialist services

Abstract

Background The majority of young people receive treatment for depressive symptoms in the UK from staff with minimal specialist mental health/therapeutic training. There is no evidence to guide them as to what treatments are likely to be effective. Interpersonal counselling (IPC) is a reduced form of interpersonal psychotherapy and may be an appropriate treatment to use in this population.

Objectives To test the effectiveness and acceptability of IPC delivered by youth workers to young people with primarily depressive symptoms.

Methods Youth workers received a 2-day training course in IPC, followed by regular supervision. They delivered IPC to 23 young people who they would normally see in their service, with depressive symptoms as their main problem. Symptoms were assessed by the Revised Child Depression and Anxiety Scale (RCADS). Qualitative interviews of youth workers and young people assessed acceptability.

Findings Mean (SD) RCADS depression-T scores fell from 78.2 (11.1) to 52.9 (16.8). All young people and youth workers interviewed were positive about it. Participants detailed specific advantages of IPC above standard counselling, including practical help, the use of goals, psychoeducation and integrating a self-rated questionnaire into treatment.

Conclusions and clinical implications IPC is likely to be an effective and acceptable treatment for young people with primarily depressive symptoms seen in local authority non-specialist mental health services. Further research is needed to determine if it is more effective than current treatment as usual.

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