Children with an anxiety disorder who receive cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) via their parents are three times more likely to recover from their anxiety, compared to children who received no treatment, according to a new study by the University of Reading.
The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, focused on 64 families with children, between the ages of 7 and 12, who suffer from an anxiety disorder.
For eight weeks, parents were given brief weekly sessions on how to use CBT with their child.
Mental disorders are becoming increasingly common among children, with approximately 20 percent of children suffering from significant symptoms of anxiety and between 5 percent and 10 percent of children meeting diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder.
Children with anxiety disorders may have problems socializing with their peers, lack confidence in trying new things, and may underachieve at school and risk social exclusion. Childhood anxiety is also known to be a risk for development of future problems, including depression, substance and alcohol abuse, and poorer physical health.
“We studied 194 children who had a variety of diagnoses, including generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder/agoraphobia and specific phobia,” said lead study author Dr. Kerstin Thirlwall.
The researchers found that the children who received cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) via their parents are three times more likely to recover from their anxiety, compared to children who received no treatment,
For the study, the families who took part in the CBT training were sent a self-help book. The parents were then supported by trained clinicians, through a mixture of face-to-face and telephone sessions, to apply the skills and techniques outlined in the book. These included helping their child challenge their anxious thoughts, to face their fears gradually, and to use problem-solving methods.
“CBT is a specialist treatment and can be difficult to access,” said Thirlwall. “The number of trained CBT professionals in the UK is low and waiting lists for NHS Child Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are high.
“The form of treatment we have developed has major cost advantages over the standard CBT treatments. It involves under five and a half hours of therapist time with just four face to face appointments. Furthermore, the treatment is conducted entirely with parents thereby minimizing the disruption to normal child activities, such as going to school, attending after school clubs and being with friends.”
“Training parents in applying CBT principles is a cost-effective treatment that could enhance the lives of children and families affected by childhood anxiety,” she said.
Source: British Journal of Psychiatry