Clinical trial examining new tools to improve psychotherapy for young people with depression

Some studies have shown alarming numbers of young people with depressive symptoms. Adrien Montesano, researcher and law school member, explained: “We’re talking about numbers up to 60%-80% of young people, including those diagnosed with mild symptoms. And the numbers may have increased with the epidemic.” Psychology and Education Sciences at the University of Uberta de Catalunya (UOC). “Symptoms are mild in most cases, but we know that the sooner you receive treatment, the less likely they are to persist long-term or get worse,” Montesano said.

A Montesano-coordinated clinical trial with professor from the University at Buffalo School of Psychology and UB Neurosciences Institute (UBNeuro) Guillem Féxas will examine new tools to try to improve the psychotherapy that these people receive. The study will examine the benefit of building personal therapy in young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 with mild or moderate depressive symptoms. It will also explore whether it is more effective when implemented in conjunction with a groundbreaking new virtual reality application. The experiment is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.

Personal construct therapy focuses above all else on how people construct their reality, and the meaning they give to the things that happen to them and to the people around them.”

Adrien Montesano, researcher and member of the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, Uberta de Catalunya

He added that his results in recent decades have been positive, but “this is the first trial that is being made to apply it specifically to young people with symptoms of depression.” Its effectiveness will be compared to that of cognitive behavioral therapy, which is considered the standard treatment, and is primarily based on observable behaviors.

Virtual reality applications have also been tried in exposure therapies for the treatment of some phobias, but “this is the first time that research has been done in the treatment of depression and in psychotherapy in general,” Montesano emphasized. The app, called EYME, is a pioneer development by the University of Barcelona. The system uses a pre-interview to transform the meanings and people important in an individual’s identity into a three-dimensional space in the form of spheres and words. According to Montesano, this means that it is possible to “accompany a person on a journey through his mind, through the realm of personal meanings and values, and to enhance therapeutic conversation. The algorithms he uses are based on work that has been done over two decades. And we believe they may have added value.” among young people, where it can improve adherence to treatment and the attractiveness of psychotherapy.”

One of the keys to psychotherapy is patient involvement. Different types of psychotherapy provided generally equivalent efficacy rates, but approximately 35% of patients leave treatment before it is considered complete. If the clinical experience is positive, this will help expand the range of options available. “The ability to customize treatment based on personal preference is critical,” Montesano said.

The experiment has already begun, and the first patients are already being examined in the respective universities, as well as in health centers and hospitals associated with the project. It will include 225 patients, and recruitment will continue until early 2023. The candidates are young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 with mild or moderate depressive symptoms, and “free treatment sessions of high scientific quality, conducted by expert professionals, will be offered as part of the study,” he explained. Montesano. Volunteers can register on the project website.

Montesano acknowledged that “interventions and research in psychotherapy have traditionally focused on the most dangerous forms, which has partially led to an underrepresentation of young people.” He concluded, “We know today that the faster the problem is addressed, the better the long-term results, so the trend needs to be reversed. This is already happening in the community, and it’s something that should also happen in research.”

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