Family-focused treatments have been shown to be effective adjunctive therapy to mood stabilizing medicine in adults with bipolar disorder (especially young, female adults), but whether this approach holds true in adolescents, has been unclear. Researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) assessed 145 adolescents with bipolar disorder to see if adding 9 months of family focused therapy (FFT) to pharmacotherapy improved outcomes.
The study, “Pharmacotherapy and Family-Focused Treatment for Adolescents with Bipolar I and II Disorders: A 2-Year Randomized Trial,” is published in AJP in Advance.
Teens receiving the combination of medications and FFT were more likely to have less-severe manic symptoms after two years than those receiving pharmacotherapy with brief psychoeducation.
“The emphasis in FFT on early recognition of prodromal signs of recurrence and communication and problem-solving skills may not translate into benefits for patients until families have implemented these strategies during new cycles of illness,” David Miklowitz, Ph.D, director of the Children and Adolescent Mood Disorders Program at UCLA, told Psychiatric News. Miklowitz concluded that intensive family interventions may be most useful when high family stress and the long-term course of hypomanic or manic symptoms are primary treatment targets.