Although emotional problems are common in childhood, current therapeutic interventions are generally not designed to treat co-existing psychological conditions.
This presents a problem as approximately eight to 22 percent of children suffer from anxiety, often combined with other conditions such as depression.
To address this need, University of Miami psychologist Jill Ehrenreich-May and her collaborator Emily Bilek analyzed the efficacy and feasibility of a new type of intervention.
The approach, called the Emotion Detectives Treatment Protocol (EDTP), adapts two treatment techniques used for adults and adolescents.
The program implements age-appropriate techniques that deliver education about emotions and how to manage them, strategies for evaluating situations, problem-solving skills, behavior activation (a technique to reduce depression) and parent training.
Preliminary findings show a significant reduction in the severity of anxiety and depression after treatment, as reported by the children and their parents.
“EDTP offers a more unified approach to treatment which, we hope, will allow for an efficient and cost-effective treatment option for clinicians and clients alike,” said the researcher.
Researchers piloted the intervention on a group of children ages 7 to 12 with a principal diagnosis of anxiety disorder and secondary issues of depression.
Investigators discovered that of the participants who completed the 15-week protocol (18 out of 22), 14 no longer met criteria for anxiety disorder at post-treatment.
Additionally, among participants who were assigned a depressive disorder before treatment, (5 out of 22), only one participant continued to meet such criteria at post-treatment.
A critical finding from the intervention analysis is that unlike previous studies, the presence of depressive symptoms did not predict poorer treatment response.
Likewise, fewer children dropped from the program, suggesting that EDTP may offer a better treatment option for children experiencing anxiety and depression.
“Previous research has shown that depressive symptoms tend to weaken treatment response for anxiety disorders. We were hopeful that a broader, more generalized approach would better address this common co-occurrence,” says Bilek.
“We were not surprised to find that the EDTP had equivalent outcomes for individuals with and without elevated depressive symptoms, but we were certainly pleased to find that this protocol may address this important issue.”
Researchers say a randomized clinical trial comparing the EDTP to another group treatment protocol for anxiety disorder is the next step in the analysis of the intervention.
“We are very excited about the potential of EDTP,” says Ehrenreich-May.
“Not only could the protocol better address the needs of youth with commonly co-occurring disorders and symptoms, it may also provide additional benefits to mental health professionals,” she says.
The study is published online ahead of print in the journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Practice.
Source: University of Miami