Depression Clinical & Research Program

The Depression Clinical & Research Program (DCRP) at Massachusetts General Hospital is considered one of the leading centers for the study of unipolar depressive disorders worldwide.
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Enroll in a research study 877-552-5837

Overview

Jonathan Alpert, MD, PhD, director emeritus of the DCRP

The ongoing work of the Depression Clinical and Research Program (DCRP) at Massachusetts General Hospital is helping to define depression treatments for the field. Over the years, our experienced researchers and clinicians, along with our promising young trainees and junior faculty members, have collaborated to generate countless clinical reports, perform pilot studies and conduct large controlled trials.

Research at the DCRP

The DCRP conducts leading-edge research in the area of depression, with a focus on testing novel antidepressant treatments and developing new tools to understand the biological changes that occur in this condition.

Clinical Care at the DCRP

The clinical program delivers care outside of the research setting to people with depressive disorders. The program provides patient evaluations and follow-up care, as well as one-time consultations and second opinions.

Depression Resources

Resilience Program at the DCRP

This program is designed to help young people—men and women (ages 14 to 30)—increase their resilience and develop better coping skills for managing stress.
Learn more about the Resilience Program

Research Overview

The Depression Clinical and Research Program (DCRP), under the direction of David Mischoulon, MD, PhD, is a leader worldwide in the study of unipolar depressive disorders. The DCRP’s research has informed clinical practice and contributed to the development of new standards of care for depression.

The DCRP comprises a large group of experienced researchers, as well as promising young trainees and junior faculty. The group has generated countless clinical reports and conducted numerous pilot studies and large controlled trials since its inception. CRP researchers have received significant funding from both the National Institute of Mental Health and industry sponsors.

See our current studies

Areas of Research at the DCRP

  • Psychotherapy studies: psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), stress reduction therapy, culturally-focused counseling and telepsychiatry
  • Medication trials: antidepressants, atypical antipsychotics, naltrexone, acamprosate and ketamine, among others
  • Population studies: college students, ethnic minority patients, patients with Parkinson’s disease and patients with nicotine dependence
  • Non-medication treatment studies: including cranial electrical stimulation (CES), acupuncture, placebo, photobiomodulation and a medication management system
  • Natural treatment studies: including omega-3 fatty acids, St John’s wort, S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe), maca root, vitamins and probiotics
  • Non-treatment studies of various psychological and physical processes: stress and aging, visual memory and object recognition, responses to reward and punishment, speech patterns and fMRI

Active Studies

The Depression Clinical and Research Program (DCRP) is currently conducting leading-edge depression research, with a focus on testing novel antidepressant treatments and developing new tools to understand the biological changes that occur in this condition.

If any of these studies interest you, please call us at 877-552-5837 to learn more. All inquiries will be kept confidential.


  • Effects of Mindfulness Training on Brain Mechanisms in Unipolar Depression

    DCRP is conducting a clinical research study evaluating the effects on the brain of two different 8-week programs for people suffering from depression. The MBCT training program consists of weekly classes that combine cognitive therapy with mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation cultivates present moment awareness to approach thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental, self-compassionate, and overall accepting way. If you are between 21-65 and have no (or limited) previous experience with meditation, you may be eligible for this study.

    For more information or to check your eligibility, please email MGHMindfulnessStudy@partners.org or call 617-643-5078.


  • Neurobiological Underpinnings of Placebo Response in Major Depressive Disorder

    Have you been feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?

    You may be eligible to participate in a research study at Mass General. We are studying the brain chemistry of people who get better taking an FDA-approved antidepressant medication and people who get better taking a placebo.

    You will receive FDA-approved bupropion XL (Wellbutrin XL®) or placebo for four to eight weeks and undergo two positron emission tomography-magnetic resonance (PET-MR) scans.

    You will be compensated up to $832.

    If you are interested in participating, please contact Sean at 617-724-7244 or MGHNBPStudy@partners.org. All inquiries will be kept confidential.


  • Hot Yoga for Depressive Symptoms

    Have you been feeling down or depressed?
    Do you no longer enjoy the things you used to?
    Are you interested in finding a new way to treat your depression?

    If so, you may be eligible to participate in a study using hyperthermic yoga (hot yoga) to treat depression. We are conducting a study that examines whether hyperthermic yoga might be a good treatment option for people who are experiencing symptoms of depression.

    During the study, participants will be assigned to begin the yoga classes immediately or put on a waitlist prior to attending the yoga classes. Participants will be asked to attend at least two hot yoga classes a week for eight weeks. Additionally, you will be asked to come to Mass General in downtown Boston for assessment visits, when you will meet with a clinician and complete several questionnaires.

    For more information, please contact Regina at 617-724-2936 or rroberg@mgh.harvard.edu.


  • Adapted CBT for Depression in Patients with Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

    The purpose of this study is to develop an adapted version of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) specifically for individuals diagnosed with depression and have sustained a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).

    For more information or to see if you might be eligible, please contact Garrett at 617-644-3222 or gthomas12@mgh.harvard.edu.


  • Neuroimaging Studies of Reward Processing

    Paid research on depression, stress, and the brain.

    Have you been feeling sad, blue or down? Have you lost interest in activities you normally enjoy?

    McLean Hospital and Mass General researchers are looking for volunteers to understand the role of dopamine, a chemical that is naturally released by brain cells, in emotions and behavior. Participating in this study will take up to 14 hours. For your time, you will receive up to $731.

    We are seeking adults who are between the ages of 18-45 years old, right-handed and not currently taking any prescription drugs for depression, anxiety, or ADHD.

    If you are interested in participating, please contact Sean at 617-724-7244 or sboyden@partners.org. Please include your phone number and some good times to reach you, and researchers will contact you to conduct a preliminary phone screen and to provide more information about the study.


  • Treatment-Resistant Depression Research Study

    Are you currently struggling with depression? Have you been unable to find relief with standard antidepressant medication?

    We are seeking patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) between the ages of 18 and 65 to participate in a new depression research study. This study is testing whether the combination of the drugs brexpiprazole and intranasal ketamine can safely and effectively treat people who are already taking an antidepressant medication, but have not had a satisfactory response.

    If you are interested in learning more about this study, please contact Richard at 617-643-0491 or rjnorton@mgh.harvard.edu.


  • Augmentation versus Switch: Comparative Effectiveness Research Trial

    The purpose of this research study is to compare the effect of augmenting an antidepressant with aripiprazole (common brand Abilify) or rTMS (commonly referred to as Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation) versus switching to venlafaxine XR (common brand Effexor) for participants who have tried an antidepressant in the past but has not helped their depression.

    To participate, you must already be on an antidepressant medication, but it isn’t working very well.

    For more information, please contact Emma at 617-643-7690 or erhayden@mgh.harvard.edu.


  • Mindfulness, Guided Imagery and Supportive Group Treatments to Improve Mood for Dementia Caregivers

    Are you caring for a relative with Dementia? Do you want to improve your mood, outlook, or energy? You may be eligible for a short-term group therapy research study. Participants in this confidential project will be interviewed by researchers, and participate in group therapy for 4 weekly sessions. This may include facilitated group discussions or learning mindfulness and guided imagery techniques. If currently taking antidepressants, you will be asked to not change medications during 6 weeks of the study. Subjects may be reimbursed up to $120 for participation.

    Please contact Richard Bernard at 617-724-3673 or RBERNARD2@partners.org.

Clinical Care

What to Expect in the Clinical Program

The clinical component of the  Depression Clinical and Research Program (DCRP)  delivers care outside of the research setting to people with depressive disorders. The program provides a number of different services, including:

  • Patient evaluations and follow-up care
  • One-time consultations for patients whose depression has failed to respond to multiple therapies
  • Second opinions

The DCRP staff includes full-time psychiatrists, psychologists, research fellows, along with research coordinators, a program coordinator, a data analyst, a practice manager and a patient service coordinator.

How to Make an Appointment

Call 617-726-8895 and select option 4 for an initial phone screen to determine whether this program is appropriate for you.

Because of high demand for our clinicians, treatment studies can provide an excellent option for prospective patients. If your case is appropriate, you will be matched to a provider based on your insurance and our provider availability. See our current research.

Insurances We Accept

The program does not accept all insurances, and the individual physicians vary in what insurance they accept. If your insurance is not accepted by the program, you may elect to self-pay if your insurance allows it. Medicare, MassHealth products, Health Safety Net, Harvard Pilgrim, United Health Care and some Tufts Health plans that subcontract (carve out) their mental health benefits do not allow this option. The program does not accept the Magellan carve-out.

Staff

Directors

Doctors

Research Coordinators

  • Richard Bernard

    Richard Bernard graduated from Tufts University in 2018, where he obtained a BS in biology and psychology. During his undergraduate years, he worked as a research assistant at the Tufts Social Identity and Stigma Lab, which focuses on understanding the experiences of people with multiple stigmatized identities. He later worked as a research assistant at the Harvard Study of Adult Development at Mass General under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Waldinger, where he focused on Heart Rate Variability as a biomarker of health in later stages of life. After his time at the DCRP, Richard will pursue an MD and is particularly interested in Psychiatry and Neurology.

  • Sean Boyden

    Administrative Program Coordinator

    Sean Boyden graduated from Tufts University in 2017 with a BS in biopsychology and community health. While at Tufts, Sean volunteered as a clinical research trainee in the Rheumatology Department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he investigated central pain mechanisms and chronic pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Sean also worked in the International Social Insect Research Facility in the Tufts Biology Department. During his senior year, he conducted an independent research project on the ability of an invasive wasp species to vector microbial pathogens. After his time at DCRP, Sean plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in psychiatry research.

  • Taquesha Dean

    Taquesha Dean graduated from DePauw University with a BA in psychology and religious studies. As an undergraduate, she conducted a research project analyzing the role of alcohol use and personality traits in predicting psychopathic behavior under the supervision of Dr. Scott R. Ross. During her senior year, she completed her thesis under Dr. Sharmin Tunguz, where she explored the organizational and psychological causes and impacts of sexual harassment in the workplace. Taquesha gained valuable clinical experience as an intern at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital providing milieu and group therapy at a psychiatric outpatient program. She also served as a court appointed special advocate where she worked with children who had been abused or neglected. After her two years at the DCRP, Taquesha plans to pursue a PhD in clinical forensic psychology.

  • Emma Hayden

    Emma Hayden graduated from Tufts University in 2018 with a BS in clinical psychology and French. As an undergraduate, she served as a research intern at the Laboratory for Affective and Translational Neuroscience working on neuroimaging studies of depression and anhedonia in adolescents. During her senior year, she worked as a research intern at the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Program at McLean Hospital. In this role, she investigated reward processing dysfunction and cognitive impairment in individuals with psychotic disorders. During her undergraduate career, Emma was involved in Active Minds at Tufts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about mental health and stigma in college students. Emma was also a member of the Tufts University Choir and the Tufts University Psychology Society. After her time at the DCRP, Emma plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

  • Lior Hilsenrath

    Lior Hilsenrath is currently clinical assistant to Dr. Cristina Cusin, who is studying the use of ketamine for treatment-resistant depression. He is concurrently a research scientist at Boston Medical Center, where he is working together with the chief of neurosurgery, Dr. James Holsapple, to create a software technology that has the potential to assist patients who suffer traumatic brain injury. Lior obtained his B.S. degree in mathematics from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) in 2011. After continuing his graduate studies in statistics at his alma mater, Lior served a brief stint as a stockbroker on Wall Street. He then returned to UMD to serve as Lecturer on Mathematics. After caretaking for his ill mother, Lior decided to change his career path to medicine, so he completed Harvard University Extension School’s post-baccalaureate premedical program. He will begin medical school in the fall of 2019.

  • Taylor Levine

    Taylor Levine is a 2018 graduate of Haverford College, where she majored in psychology and minored in neuroscience. Over the past few years, Taylor has worked as research assistant at Haverford studying executive functioning and mind wandering, while spending her summers working as a camp counselor/ropes course supervisor at Camp Hess Kramer in California. In addition to working with the Haverford Athletic Training staff during her junior and senior year, Taylor spent this past year working on her Senior Thesis which is titled: Postpartum Oxytocin Receptor Plasticity and Anxiety-Like Behavior in Syrian Hamsters: The Potential Role of the Dorsal Raphe Nuclei. Following her time at the DCRP, Taylor will pursue a PhD in clinical psychology with a specialization in neuropsychology. Ultimately, Taylor hopes to combine her love of camping, climbing and hiking with her passion to understand and treat mood disorders in young adults.

  • Richard Norton

    Richard Norton graduated from Suffolk Unviersity in 2018, where he obtained a BS in psychology. While at Suffolk, he became a research assistant to Dr. Lance Swenson in his Non-Suicidal Self-Injury Lab, looking at the influence of gender on NSSI. He later worked in the lab with Dr. Stephanie Jarvi Steele, exploring onset of NSSI and pathways to treatment. Richard interned at the Recovery Research Institute at Mass General under the mentorship of Dr. Brandon Bergman. Under Prof. Swenson's mentorship, Richard completed his thesis in his senior year, exploring the anti-depressive effects of exercise on depression amongst multi-cultural adolescents. After his two years at the DCRP, Richard plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

  • Cayla O’Hair

    Cayla O’Hair graduated from Sewanee: The University of the South in 2018, where she majored in psychology, minored in political science, and served as captain of the women’s crew team. While at Sewanee, Cayla co-directed a program designed to reduce, prevent, and understand disordered eating behaviors of college students while providing them the tools to practice embodiment and reduce depressive symptoms. Throughout her undergraduate career, she also worked as a Research Assistant in the Caregiving, Affect and Relational Experiences lab at Sewanee under the guidance of Dr. John Coffey and Dr. Katherine Nelson-Coffey. In her spare time, Cayla serves as a trained crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line. After her two years at the DCRP, Cayla plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology.

  • Regina Roberg

    Regina Roberg graduated from Brandeis University in 2017 with a BA in psychology and Hispanic studies. As an undergraduate, Regina was a research assistant at the Brandeis University Memory and Cognition Lab, studying the impact of language on memory and learning in different age populations. Regina completed a summer internship at a clinic in Buenos Aires, Argentina, assisting psychologists with patient intake cases and facilitating mental health hygiene workshops, while also conducting public health-oriented research on mental health care access for at-risk communities. During her senior year, Regina interned at Mass General's OCD & Related Disorders Program, assisting with the coordination of a study that examined fear extinction and neural mechanisms of change in OCD. After her time at the DCRP, Regina plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

  • Garrett Thomas

    Program Coordinator

    Garrett Thomas graduated from Bowdoin College in 2017 with a BA in neuroscience and a minor in English. Throughout college, Garrett was a member of several varsity sports teams and worked with the Counseling Department as a sports psychology intern. Garrett also worked on several research projects through Bowdoin’s Neuroscience and Psychology Departments. His senior year, Garrett received funding to conduct an independent study under the supervision of Dr. Hannah Reese, which assessed the effects of mindfulness-based interventions on mood, stress, proprioception and burnout in student-athletes who recently sustained an injury.Following his two years at the DCRP, Garrett plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology.

Other Staff

  • Alisabet Clain, MS

    Data Analyst

  • Desta Habtemariam

    Patient Services Coordinator

    Desta Habtemariam graduated from Principia College with a BA in sociology & anthropology and The New England Institute of Art & Communications with an AS in graphic design. Prior to joining the Depression Clinical & Research Program she worked in the behavioral health field providing therapeutic training and support services to children and their families.

  • Lisa Sangermano

    Resource Specialist

    Lisa Sangermano graduated from Tufts University in 2016 with a BS in psychology and biology. While at Tufts, she worked as a research assistant in Dr. Lisa Shin’s Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Neuroimaging Lab. She completed a senior honors thesis under Dr. Shin, studying brain and behavioral responses to ambiguous facial expressions in individuals with PTSD. She was also accepted into the Tufts Summer Scholars program, where she spent a summer conducting independent research on neuropsychological vulnerability factors for PTSD. Lisa also interned at the Public Health Department of the Massachusetts Medical Society, where she created educational materials on mental health and LGBTQ health. Lisa is passionate about the intersection between biology, behavior, and the social environment and hopes to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology.

Contact Us

Depression Clinical & Research Program

1 Bowdoin Square, 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02114

www.depressionmgh.org

Phone

For information on participating in a research study: 877-552-5837
To contact the clinical program: 617-726-8895


About Depression

Depression is a treatable illness that may involve an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Although depression can run in families, the direct causes of the illness are unclear. There is evidence to suggest that traumatic events, chronic stress, hormonal changes and the presence of medical illness, psychiatric illness, substance use disorder or sleep disorders may contribute to the development of depression. Depression is associated with significant suffering, morbidity, mortality and psychosocial functional impairment.

Symptoms of Depression

Patients who suffer from depressive disorders typically present with a constellation of psychological, behavioral and physical symptoms, but the two key features of depression are:

  • Feeling sad or blue (depressed mood)
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities 

Both may not always be present, but at least one of them is needed to diagnose depression. The number of symptoms, their duration and the degree of functional impairment distinguish depression from a normal fluctuation in mood.

In order to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD), a person must also have four of these accompanying symptom for at least two weeks:

  • Sleep abnormalities
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss or increase of either appetite or weight
  • Irritability
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate
  • Feeling physically restless or slowed down, unexplained aches and pains
  • Thoughts of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Excessive guilt or worries
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Learn more about symptoms and treatment of depression.

Prevalence of Depression

MDD is the most common form of depression. Epidemiologic studies suggest that the rate of MDD in the general population at any given time ranges from 2.3-4.9%. Furthermore, approximately 13-17% of people in the U.S. or Western Europe may develop depression at some point during their lifetime.

While suicides in the general population account for about 0.9% of all deaths, about one in five patients with recurrent depressive disorders attempts suicide at some point. In fact, two-thirds of individuals who have attempted suicide were found to suffer from depression.

If you suspect you may be suffering from depression, consult with your doctor for a thorough examination.

Alternative Treatments for Depression

Although "alternative" or natural medications have been used for thousands of years, the popularity of these medications worldwide has increased dramatically over the last two decades. The NIH has recognized that up to 25% of people in the U.S. seek and obtain non-traditional treatments. Some of these medications, such as St. John’s wort, kava, valerian, ginkgo and black cohosh, are derived from plants and herbs. Other medications, such as melatonin and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), are natural hormones.

Additional therapeutics include vitamins, such as folic acid and vitamin B12, amino acid derivatives such as phenylethylamine and omega-3 fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), which are found in animals and fish. Homeopathy and acupuncture are other popular alternative treatments. More and more of our patients now inquire about these treatments, and whether or not they might offer benefit. Natural medications represent a growing field in the pharmacology of mental disorders, and may eventually prove to be a valuable addition to the psychiatrist’s pharmacologic armamentarium.

At the DCRP, we recognize the need to be informed about available alternative treatments, as well as their risks and benefits. We also recognize the need for research exploring the efficacy and safety of these medications as treatments for depression, and are committed to conducting state of the art research in this field.

If you are interested in learning more about alternative treatments, or in participating in one of our studies of alternative treatments for depression, please call us at 877-552-5837.

Conditions

The Depression Clinical & Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital offers treatment and research for depression and related disorders. Learn more about these disorders.

  • Depression

    A depressive disorder is a whole-body illness, involving the body, mood, and thoughts, and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, feels about himself or herself, and thinks about things.

  • Dysthymia

    Dysthymia, also known as dysthymic disorder, is classified as a type of affective disorder (also called mood disorder) that often resembles a less severe, yet more chronic form of major (clinical) depression.

  • Major Depression

    Major depression, also known as clinical depression or unipolar depression, is classified as a type of affective disorder or mood disorder that goes beyond the day's ordinary ups and downs, becoming a serious medical condition and important health concern in this country.

  • Manic Depression / Bipolar Disorder

    Manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder, is classified as a type of affective disorder or mood disorder that goes beyond the day's ordinary ups and downs, becoming a serious medical condition and important health concern in this country.

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder

    Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a mood disorder characterized by depression related to a certain season of the year - especially winter.

  • Substance Abuse / Chemical Dependency

    There are three different terms used to define substance-related disorders, including substance abuse, substance dependence, and chemical dependence.

Support Our Work

Depression can profoundly impact an individual's quality of life. Its impact on well-being is comparable to or greater than many chronic medical conditions. Depression is currently the leading cause of disability in developed countries and the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide. Projections estimate that depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020. The annual cost of depression in the U.S. alone is approximately $70-80 billion.

Depression has also been characterized by an increased risk of suicide, particularly in children and adolescents. In the last 50 years, the suicide rate has tripled for 15-19-year-olds and doubled for 10-14-year-olds. Currently, suicide ranks as the third leading cause of death in adolescents.

Funding for the Depression Clinical and Research Program

Each year, thousands of individuals struggling with depression will turn to the Depression Clinical and Research Program (DCRP) at Massachusetts General Hospital for therapies that offer hope and alleviate suffering. The DCRP relies on philanthropy to advance its mission of providing the highest-quality patient care, and conducting state-of the-art scientific research to discover more effective and innovative depression therapies. Thanks to the generosity of individuals, foundations and private and public supporters, the DCRP remains passionately committed to generating new treatments and standards of care – not only for our patients, but also for the millions of people worldwide who suffer from this disorder. Philanthropy enables the DCRP to:

  • Convert new discoveries about the biological basis of depression into clinical approaches
  • Develop more effective medical and alternative therapies to treat depression
  • Improve our ability to care for patients from high-risk or underserved populations

The DCRP is poised to make a profound impact on depression treatment, while also fostering a vital training ground for the next generation of leaders in the field.

Support the Work of the DCRP

Make a gift online today

To learn more about philanthropic opportunities and ways to support the vital work of the Depression Clinical and Research Program, please contact:

Katherine “Kay” Liscomb
Senior Director of Development
Massachusetts General Hospital Development Office
125 Nashua Street, Suite 540
Boston, MA 02114
617-643-5778
kliscomb@partners.org

Resources

Online Resources

To learn more about the nature and treatment of depression, we suggest the following websites:

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Offers information on mood disorders, local and national support groups, programs and publications, and relevant news and research updates.

National Foundation for Depressive Illness
Educational and advocacy site, providing information for patients and physicians referrals through a toll free telephone number.

National Institute of Mental Health Depression
NIMH site with thorough information on depression causes, symptoms and treatments. This site also features case studies, NIMH booklets and information on current NIMH studies.

National Alliance for Mentally Ill (NAMI)
Nonprofit, grassroots, self-help, support and advocacy organization of consumers, families and friends of people with severe mental illnesses.


Videos

Learn more about depression prevention, diagnosis and management from the members of our clinical team.

 

fava

Depression Treatment:
Maurizio Fava, MD, looks at treatments for depression

Nierenberg

Depression Prevention:
Andrew Nierenberg, MD, talks about depression prevention

Alpert

Depression Diagnosis:
Jonathan Alpert, MD, PhD, discusses diagnosis of depression

Depression Management:
Christine Dording, MD, discusses options for depression management

Contact us Visit our full site

Enroll in a research study 877-552-5837

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