About This Program

Target Population: Children in grades 3-6

For children/adolescents ages: 8 – 12

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 8 – 12

Program Overview

Stressbusters is a 10-session intervention designed to reduce depressive symptoms and improve coping and functioning in children. The intervention combines group cognitive-behavioral therapy with family education.

Program Goals

The program representative did not provide information about the program’s goals.

Essential Components

The essential components of Stressbusters include:

  • 9 sessions of group cognitive-behavioral treatment, including both generic components (such as social skills, problem-solving training, goal setting, and relaxation) and depression-specific CBT components (such as understanding emotional spirals; pleasant activity scheduling; identification and practice using helpful vs. unhelpful thoughts; and cognitive and behavioral strategies for reversing negative emotional spirals). The recommended group size is 4 to 10 children.
  • A family education component is included which is designed to enhance generalization to a real world setting and promote a supportive family environment.
  • A video is developed by the children (during the group sessions) that is shown to the parents during the final family education session. In making the video, the children practice and demonstrate the skills introduced during each CBT session.
  • The intervention concludes with “family night.” This session is designed to promote generalization of skills to key environmental contexts (home, school, community), encourage parents to support the learning that was achieved through the group sessions, and foster positive attitudes toward the skills emphasized in the intervention. After a brief introduction to parents explaining their key role in promoting generalization of the CBT skills to real-world contexts and problems, parents and children are brought together for a multiple-family meeting. During the meeting, the children’s video illustrating the treatment model is presented and children are given awards for their accomplishments. Each child then assumes the role of “consultant” as they teach their parents the skills emphasized in the group session through a series of games. The session ends with the children presenting their parents with awards for their participation in the family session.

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Stressbusters directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Depression

Parent/Caregiver Services

Stressbusters directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • There is a family education component designed to enhance family support and support parents in coping with their children's growth and recovery from depressive symptoms.

Recommended Intensity:

Two roughly 90-minute sessions per week which can be modified to enhance feasibility

Recommended Duration:

Ten sessions delivered over 5 weeks (two times/week) which can be modified to weekly sessions over 10 weeks

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Outpatient Clinic
  • School


Stressbusters includes a homework component:

Practice exercises are used to help promote generalization to real-world contexts.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

A room to meet in and equipment for making video/film

Education and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

A background in mental health is required. The mental health provider may be assisted by teacher, school staff, or other personnel.

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to implement this program , and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:

To be arranged based on the needs of the organization

Number of days/hours:

To be arranged based on the needs of the organization

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

The program representative did not provide information about pre-implementation materials.

Formal Support for Implementation

The program representative did not provide information about formal support for implementation of Stressbusters.

Fidelity Measures

The program representative did not provide information about fidelity measures of Stressbusters.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

The program representative did not provide information about implementation guides or manuals for Stressbusters.

Research on How to Implement the Program

The program representative did not provide information about research conducted on how to implement Stressbusters.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Asarnow, J. R., Scott, C., & Mintz, J. (2002). Cognitive-behavioral treatment and family interventions for children with depression. A combined cognitive-behavioral family education intervention for depression in children: A treatment development study. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 26, 221-229.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 23


  • Age — 4th-6th sixth grade (approximately 8-12 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 57% Caucasian, 17% Hispanic, 13% Asian, and 13% African American
  • Gender — 15 Females and 8 Males
  • Status — Participants were 4th-6th graders attending an urban private school; all met criteria of having a total Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) score of 8 or above. 11 of the children met tentative criteria for major depression; another 9 children met tentative criteria for minor depression/dysthymia.

Location/Institution: Los Angeles, California

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This study evaluated the efficacy of a combined cognitive-behavioral family education intervention for fourth through sixth graders reporting depressive symptoms. Children were randomized to either the wait-list control or intervention condition [now called Stressbusters]. Measures used include the Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI), the Automatic Thoughts Questionnaire-Revised (ATQ), the Self-Report Coping Scale, and child & parent client satisfaction questionnaires. When compared to the waitlist control group at the postintervention follow-up, children receiving the intervention were more likely to show improvements in depressive symptoms, reductions in negative automatic thoughts, and less internalizing coping. Results were consistent with the prediction that the intervention would be successful in decreasing negative cognitive patterns and enhancing coping skills. 100% of children and 94% of their parents rated the intervention as helpful. Limitations of the study include the small sample size, self-report nature of the measures, and the lack of postintervention follow-up for the wait-list control group.

Length of postintervention follow-up: Approximately 5 weeks (intervention group only).

Additional References

Asarnow, J. R., & Scott, C. V. (1999). A combined cognitive-behavioral family education intervention for depression in children. Unpublished Manual. [Available from Joan Asarnow – see contact information below.]

Contact Information

Joan Rosenbaum Asarnow, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: University of California, Los Angeles
Phone: (310) 825-0408
Fax: (310) 206-4446

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: July 2018

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: September 2010

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: September 2010