for people ages 13-19 (full criteria)
study started
estimated completion
Principal Investigator
by Armen Arevian (ucla)David J Miklowitz, PhD (ucla)



The investigators propose to enhance the scalability of family-focused therapy (FFT), a 12-session evidence-based therapy for youth at high risk for mood disorders, through augmentation with a novel mobile phone application called MyCoachConnect (MCC). In adolescents with mood instability who have a parent with bipolar or major depressive disorder, clinicians in community clinics will conduct FFT sessions (consisting of psychoeducation and family skills training) supplemented by weekly MCC "real time" assessments of moods and family relationships; based on results of these assessments and the family's progress in treatment, clinicians will then push personalized informational and coaching alerts regarding the practice of communication and problem-solving skills. The investigators hypothesize that the augmented version of FFT (FFT-MCC) will be more effective than FFT without coaching/informational alerts in altering treatment targets and in stabilizing youths' mood symptoms and quality of life.

Official Title

Technology-Enhanced Family-Focused Treatment for Adolescents at High Risk for Mood Disorders


The investigative group has shown in several randomized trials that family-focused therapy (FFT) for symptomatic youth at high-risk for bipolar disorder - consisting of psychoeducation and family communication and problem solving skills training - is an effective adjunct to pharmacotherapy in hastening symptomatic recovery. However, between 50%-60% of high-risk youth still have residual mood symptoms and functional impairment after 18 weeks of FFT. In prior studies, two constructs have emerged as predictors of lack of response to treatment: mood instability in the child and expressed emotion (EE) in parents (i.e., frequent critical comments or hostility). In adolescents (ages 12-18) with a parent with bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder, the investigators hypothesize that augmenting FFT with frequent and targeted interventions in the home setting through a Smartphone app (MyCoachConnect, or MCC) will (a) have a greater and more rapid impact than standard FFT on the targeted mechanisms of mood instability in adolescents and EE in parents, and (b) as a result, enhance symptom resolution and functioning in adolescents. To be eligible, adolescents must score high on parent-rated measures of mood instability, and have at least one parent who is high-EE by speech sample coding criteria. The MCC app will record weekly open speech samples from parents and children and daily and weekly mood ratings from adolescents. The app assessments will be fed back to the FFT clinician, who will use this information to "push" recommendations for mood regulation, communication, and problem-solving strategies (linked to the FFT modules) for parents and youth. In year 1, the investigators will conduct an open trial (n=25) to determine (a) the feasibility and acceptability of FFT with mobile coaching (FFT-MCC), as given by clinicians in community settings, and (b) associations between online/speech feature proxies of the targets (mood instability and EE as measured weekly by MCC) and standard measures of the targets. In years 2 and 3 the investigators will conduct a 60-case randomized clinical trial in which families are assigned to FFT with MCC skills coaching or FFT with MCC assessments only, with no skills coaching. The primary hypotheses are that FFT-MCC will be acceptable to parents, adolescents and clinicians, and more effective than FFT without MCC coaching in engaging the targets of mood instability and EE and promoting improvements in adolescents' mood symptoms and quality of life over 27 weeks. The study will facilitate the translation of a technological augmentation to an evidence-based family intervention, with the goal of increasing treatment access among families with mood disorders.


Mood Disorders Bipolar Disorder Major Depression Family Therapy Disease Family-Focused Treatment with MCC App


You can join if…

Open to people ages 13-19

  • English speaking and has access to smart-phones, a tablet, or computer
  • Age 13-19 years old
  • One parent with diagnosis of bipolar disorder type I, bipolar disorder type II, or
  • major depressive disorder.
  • At least one parent is rated high in perceived criticism of the child.
  • Child shows evidence of mood instability
  • Child is not currently in individual therapy.

You CAN'T join if...

  • Over 6 on the Autism Spectrum Disorder screener
  • a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition manic episode of bipolar I disorder has occurred in the past 2 weeks
  • history of persistent psychotic symptoms that have not remitted when mood states remit.
  • intelligence quotient below 70 from school records
  • Any significant and persistent substance or alcohol abuse in the prior 3 months
  • Previously received a full course (i.e., 10-12 sessions) of FFT
  • Current, active sexual abuse, physical abuse, or domestic violence.


  • UCLA Child and Adolescent Mood Disorders Program, UCLA School of Medicine
    Los Angeles California 90024-1759 United States

Lead Scientists at University of California Health

  • Armen Arevian (ucla)
  • David J Miklowitz, PhD (ucla)
    Professor-in-Residence, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Medicine. Authored (or co-authored) 248 research publications


in progress, not accepting new patients
Start Date
Completion Date
University of California, Los Angeles
UCLA Child and Adolescent Mood Disorders program
Phase 1/2 research study
Study Type
Expecting 60 study participants
Last Updated