What is the Blues Program?
The Blues Program is a group-based prevention program for 4-8 high school teens with symptoms of depression and anxiety. In six hours of sessions, students learn cognitive behavioral strategies with a simple focus: change how you think and what you do to feel better.
Changing thinking: Teens learn to identify negative thoughts and practice new ways of thinking that are more realistic and positive.
Changing doing: Each session the group focuses on ways to increase their involvement in pleasant activities and makes plans to incorporate these activities into their daily life.
Additionally, the group explores a variety of coping strategies for true negative events and develops response plans for future life stressors. Group sessions are designed to build rapport and enhance trust. Between group sessions, the participants have home activities in which they apply these new skills to their daily life.
This course is proven to reduce symptoms of depression, prevent onset of major depression, and decrease substance use.
- Selective Prevention (Elevated Risk)
- Indicated Prevention (Early Symptoms of Problem)
- Cognitive-Behavioral Training
- Counseling and Social Work
The Blues Program logic model as developed by Penn State’s EPISCenter and in collaboration with Drs. Paul Rohde, Eric Stice, and Heather Shaw at Oregon Research Institute. Please see the logic model for information about program goals, modalities, targeted risk and protective factors, and short and long term outcomes.
The program is delivered by 1 or 2 facilitators. Master’s-level mental health professionals are ideal to facilitate these group sessions, as are school counselors, nurses, and/or teachers. Other staff with a high school diploma and 2-4 years of job training/experience in working with adolescents in a helping role may also implement the program with supervisory support. Please see the Training page for additional information.
- The Blues Program is a prevention program that aims to reach teens with symptoms of anxiety, stress, negative thoughts, and depression. Moderate levels of anxiety, stress, and depression symptoms affect a wide range of students, from a student struggling with multiple risk factors to a student that is high achieving within a supportive environment.
- This program is also appropriate for students that are interested in learning more about mental and emotional health and effective coping strategies, perhaps due to interest in supporting their friends.
- Program research has focused on high school aged adolescents (13-19 years of age) and the program has been found to be equally effective of teens across that age span.
- The Blues Program is a depression prevention intervention and not treatment, so it is important to assess adolescents for current major depression and serious suicidal ideation. If either is present, the teen needs to be referred for appropriate treatment.
- Adolescents with a history of major depression could be appropriate for the Blues Program. We have not excluded teens on the basis of other psychiatric disorders. Our research suggests that adolescents with high levels of substance use do not significantly benefit from the program.
Offering incentives for class participation, if possible, is helpful. Candy, snacks, small prizes, or gift cards on a weekly basis or at the end of the course may motivate attendance.
The Blues Program is a depression prevention intervention and not treatment, so it is important to assess adolescents for current major depression and serious suicidal ideation. If either is present, the adolescent needs to be referred for appropriate treatment. A validated depression screening assessment tool is suggested, such as the CES-D or PHQ-9.
Information about Fidelity Adherence may be found on the Training page.