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Pilot mixed-methods evaluation of interpersonal counselling for young people with depressive symptoms in non-specialist services
  1. Paul Oliver Wilkinson1,2,
  2. Viktoria Cestaro3,
  3. Ian Pinchen4
  1. 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  2. 2Children and Young People’s Services, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, UK
  3. 3Suffolk South Integrated Delivery Team, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, Norwich, UK
  4. 4IP Consulting, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Paul Oliver Wilkinson, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 8AH, UK; pow12{at}


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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  • Contributors POW and VC conceived the therapy development and evaluation plan. IC led the qualitative analysis, with input from POW and VC. POW conducted the quantitative analysis. All authors wrote and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The research evaluation was funded by CLAHRC-East of England and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust R&D Strategic Funding. The therapy, training and supervision were funded by Suffolk County Council.

  • Competing interests POW and VC work as interpersonal psychotherapy practitioners, supervisors and trainers and are developing IPC services in the area where the pilot took place. POW has conducted paid consultancy for Lundbeck and Takeda.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by UK Social Care Ethics Committee (first half of study only) and Suffolk County Council Research Governance Panel (whole study).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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