Imipramine plus cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of school refusal

Gail A. Bernstein, Carrie M. Borchardt, Amy R. Perwien, Ross D. Crosby, Matt G. Kushner, Paul D. Thuras, Cynthia G. Last

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the efficacy of 8 weeks of imipramine versus placebo in combination with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for the treatment of school-refusing adolescents with comorbid anxiety and major depressive disorders. Method: This was a randomized, double-blind trial with 63 subjects entering the study and 47 completing. Outcome measures were weekly school attendance rates based on percentage of hours attended and anxiety and depression rating scales. Results: Over the course of treatment, school attendance improved significantly for the imipramine group (z = 4.36, p < .001) but not for the placebo group (z = 1.26, not significant). School attendance of the imipramine group improved at a significantly faster rate than did that of the placebo group (z = 2.39, p = .017). Over the 8 weeks of treatment, there was a significant difference between groups on attendance after controlling for baseline attendance; mean attendance rate in the final week was 70.1% ± 30.6% for the imipramine group and 27.6% ± 36.1% for the placebo group (p < .001). Defining remission as 75% school attendance, 54.2% of the imipramine group met this criterion after treatment compared with only 16.7% from the placebo group (p = .007). Anxiety and depression rating scales decreased significantly across treatment for both groups, with depression on the Children's Depression Rating Scale-Revised decreasing at a significantly faster rate in the imipramine group compared with the placebo group (z = 2.08, p = .037). Conclusions: Imipramine plus CBT is significantly more efficacious than placebo plus CBT in improving school attendance and decreasing symptoms of depression in school-refusing adolescents with comorbid anxiety and depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-283
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Imipramine
  • School refusal

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