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Specialty Clinics

Child & Adolescent Depression Clinic



The clinic provides thorough evaluations of children and adolescents who present with depressive symptoms. The evaluation includes both child and parent interviews, family history, structured diagnostic interviews, behavioral observation, and completion of standardized questionnaires.


The clinic provides individual cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression to children, adolescents, and their parents. In clinical trials, CBT has been shown to be effective in reducing depressive symptoms in children and adolescents, and overall success rates are comparable to psychiatric medications. Progress will be assessed on a regular basis with standardized measures.


Youth with severe depressive disorders may benefit from combined therapies – that is, CBT in conjunction with medication. The clinic does not offer pharmacological treatments but will provide referrals to child and adolescent psychiatrists for medication consultation.

For information and referral, call the clinic at 303-871-3306

How common is child and adolescent depression?

Research indicates that roughly one in five adolescents will experience a depressive episode during the teen years. Although rates of depression during childhood are much lower (about one in fifty children), children can become depressed. Research also shows that depression runs in families. Depressed youth are at increased risk for a number of problems including school difficulties, peer problems, substance use, and self-injurious behavior. Treatment of depression can help youngsters overcome current symptoms and prevent the development of future depressive episodes.

What does depression look like in children and adolescents?

Depression often involves extended periods of sadness or feeling down. However, in children and adolescents, heightened irritability can be more evident than sadness. Depression typically involves a change from usual functioning. Youngsters may show diminished energy or lose interest in activities such as school work, sports, or friendships that once brought them satisfaction. The child or adolescent may show changes in sleep patterns or appetite that cannot be traced to illness. Feelings of low self-worth or low self-esteem are often part of depression. Youngsters may criticize themselves harshly, express feelings of hopelessness, or believe they are unloved. In some cases, children or teens might express suicidal thoughts or be preoccupied with death. Not every youngster shows all of these symptoms, and depression can look rather different in boys and girls. Children and adolescents who regularly experience most of these symptoms for two weeks or more could be suffering from a depressive disorder. When trying to decide if your child or adolescent is just moody or actually depressed, it’s important to consider whether or not their symptoms interfere with their functioning at school, in the family, or with their friends.

Can child and adolescent depression be effectively treated?

A growing body of research shows that both child and adolescent depression can be effectively treated. Treatment guidelines developed by a number of professional organizations recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy as the first line of intervention. Children and adolescents who are severely depressed might also benefit from psychiatric medications in addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Over a dozen clinical trials have shown that children and adolescents treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy are more likely to show symptom reduction and improved functioning than untreated youth. Typically, cognitive-behavioral therapy involves 12 to 16 sessions of individual treatment. For youth with complicated presentations involving other behavior problems, a longer course of therapy may be needed.

What is cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is grounded in basic research on learning and thinking. The basic idea is that our emotions, including depressed mood, can be altered by changing patterns of thinking and behavior. Typical cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on three major areas: (1) thought patterns such as the things we say to ourselves when we encounter stressful situations or experience negative emotions, (2) behaviors such as the strategies we use to deal with stressful situations, and (3) social relationships that trigger negative mood or support positive emotion. Cognitive-behavioral therapy does not attempt to uncover the past to improve the present, but rather focuses on learning new skills and behaviors to cope with life’s challenges that trigger depressed feelings.