Aug 10, 2004


The Problem
Solving for Life (PSFL) program is designed to prevent adolescent depression
with teacher-implemented classroom-based sessions. The program targets
adolescents in eighth grade. PSFL uses two approaches to target adolescent
depression: cognitive restructuring and problem-solving skills. An evaluation
of PSFL, in which 8 schools were randomly assigned to deliver PSFL and were
control schools found significant decreases in depressive symptoms and
increases in life problem-solving skills for adolescents at high-risk for
depression. Similar but smaller impacts were found for low-risk adolescents.
These results, however, were not found at the 12-month follow-up.


Target population: Adolescents in eighth

Problem Solving for Life (PSFL) is a teacher-implemented
classroom-based intervention to prevent adolescent depression among adolescents.
The program is given over the course of a school term and consists of 8
sessions lasting approximately 45 min. The sessions are given once a week
and utilize two approaches: cognitive restructuring and problem-solving skills.
The cognitive approach of the PSFL teaches participants how to identify their
thoughts and feelings. The participants are taught how to challenge irrational
thoughts they may have. The problem-solving skills approach includes
development of a positive orientation to problem solving. The program uses
materials such as overheads, background notes, handouts, cartoons, and puzzles.

Teachers implementing the PSFL program are provided with a
6-hour training day that covers the program and implementation techniques.


Evaluated population: 1,500 eighth grade
students who were 12 to 14 years old located in Australia. Participants were from
16 urban coeducational schools.

Approach: 8 schools were randomly selected
to participate in the Problem Solving for Life Program and 8 schools were
randomly assigned to a control condition. In total, 751 students were given
PSFL program, and there were 749 students in the control schools.. The average age of participants was 12.9 in the program
condition and 12.9 in the control condition. Students were from both public and
private schools.

The researchers measured depressive symptoms using the Beck
Depression Inventory, and 4 questions developed to reflect DSM-IV criteria for
depression were used to test for dsthymia, with
students who responded positively to symptoms of sadness or irritability being
classified as high-risk for depression. To measure anxiety disorders, the
researchers used the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule for Children.
Episodes of depression were tracked using the Longitudinal Follow-Up Evaluation
and the Youth Self-Report Form of the Child Behavior Checklist was used to
measure general psychopathology. The researchers also measured social
functioning using the Child and Adolescent Social and Adaptive Functioning
Scale and the Social Problem-Solving Inventory was used to assess
problem-solving skills. Attributional style and
negative life events were measured using the Children’s
Attributional Style Questionnaire and the Life Events
Record. Finally, the Family Conflict subscale of the Colorado Self-Report of
Family Functioning Inventory was used to assess family conflict. The
researchers also collected teacher and student evaluations. The researchers
analyzed data for the whole sample and by at-risk status.

Results: Results of the study indicate that PSFL
reduced depressive symptoms for high-risk PSFL participants based on
pre-intervention scores on the beck Depression Inventory. Further, high-risk
students in PSFL were more likely post intervention to not be high-risk at
post-test than high-risk students in the control group. Similar but muted
results on depression were found for low-risk students. On measures of problem
solving, students in the PSFL group showed greater improvements than students
in control group schools, though problem-solving skills for high-risk students
were still well below those low-risk students.

No significant long-term effects for depression were found,
however, among the 71% of the sample assessed after twelve months,
specifically. At the 12-month follow-up, PSFL and control participants did not
differ on measures of depression at the 12-month follow-up.



Spence, S.H., Sheffield,
J.K., and Donovan, C.L. (2003). Preventing adolescent
depression: An evaluation of the Problem Solving for Life Program. Journal
of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, 71
(1), 3-13.

KEYWORDS: Adolescence (12-17), Co-ed, Middle School,
School-based, Mental Health, Problem-Solving Skills, Cognitive
Restructuring, Life Skills, Skills Training, Depression, High-Risk, High School.

information last updated 08/10/04.

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