Understanding Readiness for Treatment in Teens

By the age of 18 about 20% of teens have experienced a depressive disorder which challenges their health, school work, and social relationships. In spite of the fact that counseling and medication can help, many teens do not receive treatment, although many will see their primary care doctor, at least annually.

A recent article by Tanielian, et. al. (2009) in the Journal of Adolescent Health examined readiness for treatment among adolescents with depression in primary care. Data from 184 depressed patients aged 13 to 17 who participated in a Teen Depression Awareness Project suggested that although 78% of the depressed teens acknowledged they had a problem with depression, only 25% were currently getting any sort of counseling or treatment for depression.

Teens were categorized as "ready" to get care (41%), "unsure" (27%), or "not ready" (32%). Teens who were classified as ready to get care were more often female, experiencing more depressive symptoms, and likely to say they were already trying to find a counselor. The unsure teens were those thinking about whether some counseling might help, and the teens who were not ready to get care were those who did not acknowledge they had screened as depressed and were not thinking about getting care.

The article suggests that youth who may not be ready to receive care for their depression receive more frequent care from their primary care doctor and support to become more active in seeking care. This suggests that doctors receive some training about screening teens for depression and about assessing readiness to change, following up with teens to make sure referrals were completed.

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