Objective To systematically review and meta-analyze the effectiveness of family therapy compared to other active treatments for adolescents with depressive disorders or suicidal ideation. Method We conducted a systematic search of The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, AMED, CINAHL and Web of Science and performed two meta-analyses of outcomes for depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. Results We screened 5,940 records and identified 10 randomized controlled studies of family therapy for depressive disorder or suicidal ideation in adolescents with an active treatment comparison group. Nine studies reported outcome measures of depressive symptoms and four reported outcome measures of suicidal ideation. The meta-analysis showed no significant difference between family therapy and active comparison treatments for end-of-treatment levels of depression. For suicidal ideation our meta-analysis showed a significant effect in favour of family therapy over comparison treatments for suicidal ideation. Conclusions Based on the current body of research, we found that family therapy is not superior to other psychotherapies in the treatment of depressive disorder. However, family therapy leads to significantly improved outcomes for suicidal ideation, compared to other psychotherapies. The evidence for the treatment of depression is of low quality needs more research.