A three-hour group therapy session could slash the rate of mental health issues in teenagers, a new study has found. Researchers from the University of Montreal have determined that two 90-minute sessions can cut the incidence of anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, and substance abuse by as much as 33 percent. The findings suggest a new, effective method of integrating prevention efforts.

"Almost one-in-four American 8 to 15 year olds has experienced a mental health disorder over the past year. We know that these disorders are associated with a plethora of negative consequences," lead author Patricia Concord said in a press release. "Our study shows that teacher delivered interventions that target specific risk factors for mental health problems can be immensely effective at reducing the incidence of depression, anxiety and conduct disorders in the long term."

To test the intervention program, the researchers enrolled students from 19 London high schools. The students were then evaluated in terms of impulsivity, hopelessness, anxiety sensitivity, sensation seeking, and other factors associated with conduct problems. At-risk students were then asked to participate in two 90-minute therapy sessions. These interventions used cognitive behavioral therapy, discussions of real life scenarios, conversations about feelings, and other measures designed to produce a better understanding of one’s personality profile.

Over a period of two years, participating students were asked to complete questionnaires every six months. The results allowed the researchers to track each participant’s individual progress following the two interventions. Compared to the control group, the treatment group exhibited a significantly lower risk of developing mental health issues. The researchers recorded clinically significant drops in severe depression, anxiety, conduct problems, impulsivity, and hopelessness.

"The interventions were run by trained educational professionals, suggesting that this brief intervention can be both effective and sustainable when run within the school system," Concord said. "We are now leading a similar study in 32 high schools in Montreal to further test the efficacy of this kind of program."

Childhood mental disorders includes an array of different conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Tourette syndrome, anxiety, and depression. Some of these disorders may increase the risk of substance abuse, behavioral issues, and suicide. To learn more about childhood mental disorders, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) online database.