Depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2022), almost one-fifth of adolescents ages 12 to 17 years in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2020, representing 4.1 million people, and over half did not receive any treatment. An interpersonal approach to therapy for adolescents known as Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Depressed Adolescents (IPT-A), developed by Dr. Laura Mufson, has been regarded as having well-established efficacy in treating depressed adolescents. This systematic review of quantitative studies (without meta-analysis) was conducted to (a) examine the effectiveness of IPT-A and its adaptations in reducing depression across randomized control trials (RCTs); (b) summarize and synthesize the concomitant findings associated with implementation across these RCTs and a range of other quantitative designs, including SMART designs and single group pretest posttest; and (c)identify potential mediating and moderating factors associated with the effectiveness of IPT-A. Data were collected across three electronic databases and included peer-reviewed, English language articles that were published between 1994-2020. The review also included group adaptations of IPT used in developing countries (IPT-G) and a variety of IPT-A adaptations including greater parent involvement (IPT-AP), a briefer version of IPT-A (BIPT-A), and a stepped care model (SCIPT-A). A total of 28 studies were included in this systematic review; 14 addressed the question of effectiveness and a further 14 addressed the question of potential variables of mediation and moderation. Results showed IPT-A is an effective intervention for depressed adolescents and further dissemination in multiple settings would benefit a range of stakeholders. It works in both a group or individual format and is efficacious among varied ethnicities, including with the LatinX community. Last, the approach stimulates the discussion on the fluid relationships between attachment styles and interpersonal relationships, and this relationship to depression.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Depression in adolescence; Interpersonal psychotherapy

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Natasha Thapar-Olmos