Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 45, Issue 5, pp 1025–1037 | Cite as

Psychoeducational Psychotherapy and Omega-3 Supplementation Improve Co-Occurring Behavioral Problems in Youth with Depression: Results from a Pilot RCT

  • Andrea S. Young
  • L. Eugene Arnold
  • Hannah L. Wolfson
  • Mary A. Fristad


This pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) investigated benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and Individual-Family Psychoeducational Psychotherapy (PEP; a family-focused, cognitive-behavioral therapy) for behavior problems among youth with depression. Participants aged 7–14 with DSM-IV-TR depressive disorders (N = 72; 56.9 % male) were randomized to 1 of 4 treatment conditions: PEP + omega-3, PEP monotherapy (with pill placebo), omega-3 monotherapy, or placebo (without active intervention). At screen, baseline, and 2, 4, 6, 9, and 12 weeks post-baseline, parents completed the SNAP-IV, which assesses attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms, oppositional defiant disorder symptoms, and overall behavior problems. At screen, baseline (randomization), 6 and 12 weeks, parents completed the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI), which includes Intensity and Problem scales for child behavior problems. Youth who had a completed SNAP-IV or ECBI for at least two assessments during treatment (n = 48 and 38, respectively) were included in analyses of the respective outcome. Linear mixed effects models indicated a significant effect of combined PEP + omega-3 on SNAP-IV Total (p = 0.022, d = 0.80) and Hyperactivity/Impulsivity trajectories (p = 0.008, d = 0.80), such that youth in the combined group saw greater behavioral improvement than those receiving only placebo. Similarly, youth in combined treatment had more favorable ECBI Intensity trajectories than youth who received no active treatment (p = 0.012, d = 1.07). Results from this pilot RCT suggest that combined PEP + omega-3 is a promising treatment for co-occurring behavior symptoms in youth with depression.


Randomized controlled trial Depression Children Adolescents Psychotherapy Omega-3 supplementation 



This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health award# R34 MH85875; the content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIH. The authors would like to thank staff who collected data and provided therapy, families who participated, and OmegaBrite, who provided study capsules.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


Dr. Young has received research funding from Psychnostics, LLC. Dr. Arnold has received research funding from Curemark, Forest, Lilly, Neuropharm, Novartis, Noven, Shire, Supernus, and YoungLiving (as well as NIH and Autism Speaks) and has consulted with or been on advisory boards for Arbor, Gowlings, Ironshore, Neuropharm, Novartis, Noven, Organon, Otsuka, Pfizer, Roche, Seaside Therapeutics, Sigma Tau, Shire, Tris Pharma, and Waypoint. Dr. Fristad receives royalties from Guilford Press, American Psychiatric Press and CFPSI for treatment manuals, workbooks and a diagnostic instrument reported on in this study and honoraria from Physician’s Post-Graduate Press and the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent/assent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea S. Young
    • 1
    • 2
  • L. Eugene Arnold
    • 1
  • Hannah L. Wolfson
    • 1
  • Mary A. Fristad
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral HealthThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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