1st Edition

Treating Childhood Depression with Contextual Emotion Regulation Therapy

By Maria Kovacs Copyright 2023

    This book is the authoritative presentation of contextual emotion regulation therapy (CERT), an innovative intervention expressly designed for depressed children ages 7–13 and their parents. CERT is grounded in decades of research on the development of emotion regulation and on "mood repair" difficulties as a risk factor for clinical depression. Step by step, Maria Kovacs describes ways to teach children skills to modulate feelings of sadness and distress and break the hold of depression symptoms. Extensive therapist, parent, and child exchanges illustrate key treatment principles. Clinicians learn how to structure CERT sessions and implement personalized social–interpersonal, cognitive, behavioral, problem-solving, and psychoeducational interventions. Reproducible tools in the appendices--including forms, posters, and a parent manual--can be downloaded and printed in a convenient 8 1/2" x 11" size.

    1. Childhood Depression: Key Features and the Need for Treatment
    2. Emotion Regulation and Mood Repair: What the Research Shows
    3. Introduction to CERT for Children
    4. Getting Ready to Deliver CERT
    5. Assessment, Case Formulation, and Treatment Planning
    6. The Initial CERT Sessions
    7. Treatment of Sadness and Dysphoria
    8. Treatment of Nonaffective Symptoms
    9. Coping Skills Training: Its Purpose, Components, and Challenges
    10. Implementing Coping Skills Training and Ending Therapy
    Appendix A. Mood Repair Questionnaires and Monitoring Forms
    Appendix B. Posters
    Appendix C. Case Formulations and Personalized Training Plans for Four Young Patients
    Appendix D. Parent Manual: Overcoming Your Child’s Depression with CERT


    Maria Kovacs, PhD, is Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Kovacs has been internationally recognized for her expertise in childhood depression. Since the 1980s, her research and clinical work have focused on ways to understand, prevent, or mitigate childhood-onset depression and its sequelae later in life. She led an international team that studied the early development of the self-regulation of sadness and distress in young children, the role of emotion regulation problems as risk factors that enable the emergence of clinical depression, and ways in which family context, physiology, genetics, and personal characteristics can enable or counteract these risk factors. She developed many research tools, including the Children’s Depression Inventory and the Feelings and Me Questionnaires. Dr. Kovacs has lectured extensively on her work, both nationally and internationally, and has published more than 200 articles in scientific journals.

    "CERT is based on decades of groundbreaking research. This book provides a clear presentation of CERT's guiding conceptual model, assessment and intervention techniques, developmental variations, and case illustrations. The parent manual and other appendix materials are especially useful for the clinician who wants to implement this approach immediately. The integration of case material, including actual dialogues, really brings the interventions to life. The book is detailed and well conceived. Kovacs, one of the top scholars in the field of early-onset depression, provides a roadmap for clinicians."--Martha C. Tompson, PhD, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University

    "Kovacs provides a wonderful review of the childhood depression and emotion regulation literatures, including her model of why children (distinct from adolescents) get depressed, and why it is important to treat. Much more work has been done with adolescents, but Kovacs has clearly given a lot of thought to the needs of younger children. She has structured the book very well; I found it both thorough and extremely readable."--Gabrielle A. Carlson, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Stony Brook University, The State University of New York

    "Kovacs is a pioneering researcher who has led the way in efforts to understand the presentation and course of childhood-onset depression. This book counts among the 'must reads' for practitioners who work with children struggling with depression. CERT is an innovative treatment that is rooted in science and is likely to promote healing."--Joan Rosenbaum Asarnow, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles-