Engaging Depressed African American Adolescents in Treatment: Lessons From The AAKOMA Project

The authors describe and illustrate means of engaging depressed African American adolescents in treatment. Twenty-eight youth participated in focus groups or individual interviews. Using grounded theory and transcript based analysis, they derived 5 themes describing African American adolescents’ experience of depression and suggested mechanisms for improving African American youth treatment engagement. Practitioners can educate African American youth about depression as a medical disorder, build trust, and apply innovative approaches to recognizing differential manifestations of depression in African American youth.

It is important for clinicians to note the ambivalence that African American youth report regarding acceptance of depression as a medical disease. We believe this ambivalence is related to the pluralism that the youth expressed about depression management. Previous research supports this notion by indicating that (a) African American youth do not recognize depression as a medical disease and (b) they view it as a concern that can be controlled through strong will and religious faith.

Given this notion of ‘‘depression is not a disease’’ and its seeming prevalence among African American youth and families, how might clinicians respond? We propose a multifaceted strategy. First, actively engage communities by providing culturally relevant psychoeducational opportunities regarding adolescent depression…….. Second, involve other African American individuals who have experienced depression and are willing to share their stories in psychoeducational venues…… Additionally, such venues could provide the opportunity for youth to learn more about the triggers and outcomes associated with depression………. Third, develop mechanisms to reduce the stigma associated with identifying and seeking treatment for depression.

Population of focus: African American teens

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Date: 2010

Journal: Journal of Clinical Psychology