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Columbia Psychiatry Marks National Anxiety and Depression Disorders Awareness Week 2014

May 2, 2014

 Contact:         Dacia Morris

                        (646) 774-8724



Columbia Psychiatry Marks National Anxiety and Depression Disorders Awareness Week 2014


Helping Anxious Adolescents Make the LEAP to Adulthood 


NEW YORK, NY (May 2, 2014) —The Launching Emerging Adults Program—LEAP—an innovative therapy program for individuals aged 18–28, was developed by Anne Marie Albano, PhD, a noted clinical researcher who has devoted her career to the development and testing of effective psychotherapy approaches for anxiety and mood disorders.


Recognizing that young adults with anxiety disorders face unique, age-related challenges, Dr. Albano and her team at the Columbia University Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CUCARD) adapted the core components of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for treating adolescents and added specific therapy procedures designed to address patient-caretaker dependency, role transitions, and the attainment of behaviors necessary for independent adult functioning.  


“Development of a transition-focused CBT protocol for emerging adults with anxiety disorders is critical and a public health issue,” said Dr. Albano.


Adolescents with anxiety disorders typically have co-occurring mood, anxiety, and substance-use disorders, leading to serious distress, disability, and impairment in functioning, specifically in the ability to become independent and move forward into college or the workforce. Evidence supports the effectiveness of CBT and medication treatments for anxiety disorders in adolescents and children, and the Child/Adolescent Anxiety Multimodal Study established combination treatment as most effective in the short term and for 6 months following treatment (Walkup, Albano et al., 2008). 


Studies of long-term improvement and developmental outcomes, however, are lacking. Focusing on psychosocial treatment, given the chronicity of anxiety disorders and the extended deleterious impact on adult functioning, LEAP is a test of an integrated, developmentally informed, psychosocial treatment program aimed both at improving symptoms in young adults and at arming them with the tools necessary to assume their independence. 




Researchers “EMBARC” on Study to Get Depression Patients Better Faster


Is personalized medicine science fiction, or can researchers really hope to individualize each patient’s depression treatment? An innovative new NIMH-funded research study to identify the best treatment based on a person’s unique biology is underway at the New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia Psychiatry and three other sites nationwide.  Patrick J. McGrath, MD, is Principal Investigator of “Establishing Moderators and Biosignatures of Antidepressant Response for Clinical Care” (EMBARC) here at Columbia Psychiatry.  


“Can we find a way to scientifically select the correct treatment for our patients with depression, without trial and error?” asks Dr. McGrath. For the first 8 weeks of the 16-week study, participants are randomly assigned to receive either an SSRI (Zoloft) or a placebo (sugar pill). After 8 weeks, patients who have not improved on Zoloft switch to Wellbutrin for an additional 8 weeks, and those who have not improved on the placebo switch to Zoloft. Prior to the medication, each participant has MRI and psychological testing, as well as an EEG, which records electrical signals in the brain. Both the MRI and EEG are used to assess brain function. Blood samples are collected for genetic testing and analysis of blood proteins, which may signal medication response.   


“This isn’t the first study to use some of these technologies to look at physiologic differences in people with depression, but it is the first to incorporate a whole battery of them in a single randomized research study of this size,” said Dr. McGrath. 


Collaborators on the study include Myrna Weissman, PhD, a leading Columbia epidemiologist studying depression; Ramin Parsey, MD, PhD, formerly of our department and now chair of psychiatry at Stony Brook University; and Maria Oquendo, MD, Columbia Psychiatry’s Vice Dean for Education and an active mood disorder researcher. 


The results of EMBARC are eagerly anticipated—not only by researchers but by patients who have tried multiple medications but found the side effects intolerable or have found improvement only after months and months of trial and error.





Columbia University Department of Psychiatry & NYS Psychiatric Institute

Columbia Psychiatry is ranked among the best departments and psychiatric research facilities in the nation and has contributed greatly to the understanding and treatment of psychiatric disorders. It is home to distinguished clinicians and researchers noted for their clinical and research advances in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, suicide, schizophrenia, bipolar and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and childhood psychiatric disorders. Visit for more information. 



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