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Cognitive behavioural therapy and medication for treatment of adolescent depression: a network meta-analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 January 2023

Latefa Ali Dardas*
The University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan
Hanzhang Xu
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
Michelle Scotton Franklin
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
Jewel Scott
University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA
Ashlee Vance
Henry Ford Health, Detroit, MI, USA
Brittney van de Water
Boston College, Connell School of Nursing, Chestnut Hill, MA, USA
Wei Pan
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:



Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and medication are widely accepted and useful interventions for individuals with depression. However, a gap remains in our current understanding of how CBT directly benefits adolescents with depression.


The purpose of this study was to examine the short- and long-term effectiveness of CBT only, CBT+Medication, or Medication alone in reducing the duration of major depressive episodes, lessening internalizing and externalizing symptoms and improving global functioning.


Data were extracted from 14 unique studies with a total of 35 comparisons. Network meta-analysis was conducted and p-scores, a measure of the extent of certainty that one treatment is better than another, were used to rank treatments.


There was no significant difference between any two treatments for depression, nor internalizing or externalizing symptoms. For global functioning, CBT had significantly greater effect at the longest follow-up than CBT+Medication. CBT+Medication had the highest p-score for depression, short- and long-term effects, and internalizing and externalizing symptoms long-term effects. No indication of publication bias was found.


Neither modality, CBT nor medication, is superior for treating adolescent depression. However, CBT was superior in improving global functioning, which is essential for meeting developmental goals.

© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies

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