Interpersonal psychotherapy for mood and behavior dysregulation: Pilot randomized trial

Leslie Miller, Stefanie A. Hlastala, Laura Mufson, Ellen Leibenluft, Gayane Yenokyan, Mark Riddle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Youth with chronic irritability and excessive reactivity, diagnosed as disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD), have social impairment in multiple settings (i.e., peers, school, and home). This paper presents a pilot randomized trial assessing the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) for mood and behavior dysregulation (IPT-MBD), an adapted version of IPT for depressed adolescents. IPT-MBD focuses on decreasing outbursts and irritability and improving interpersonal interactions. Methods: Nineteen adolescents (aged 12–17) with DMDD or its research precursor, severe mood dysregulation, were randomly assigned to IPT-MBD (n = 10) or treatment-as-usual (TAU, n = 9) in a 24-week psychosocial intervention study. Assessments of mood symptoms and overall functioning were conducted by an independent evaluator, blinded to treatment, every 4 weeks. Parent and self-report irritability measures were collected every 4 weeks. Results: Eighty percent of participants randomized to the IPT-MBD arm completed the study. Also, participants enrolled in the IPT-MBD arm attended >80% of therapy sessions. Parents and teens agreed that the frequency and duration of therapy were appropriate and were satisfied with IPT-MBD treatment. Clinical global impression scales for severity and improvement showed statistically greater improvement in the IPT-MBD group compared to TAU. Conclusions: In this small pilot randomized trial, IPT-MBD was feasible and acceptable to parents and teens. There was significantly more improvement in the IPT-MBD group compared to TAU. IPT-MBD holds promise as a potentially effective psychosocial intervention for clinically impaired youth with DMDD and warrants further investigation in a larger randomized trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)574-582
Number of pages9
JournalDepression and anxiety
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • adolescent
  • disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
  • interpersonal psychotherapy
  • irritability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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