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CBT in Grade School Can Lower Kids’ Anxiety

By Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on July 20, 2014
CBT in Elementary School Curriculum Lowers Children's Anxiety Levels

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to greatly reduce anxiety levels in schoolchildren ages nine to 10 years old, according to new research from Oxford University. Researchers believe that this therapy would benefit all children, regardless of their anxiety levels.

The project involved a randomized controlled trial designed to test the effectiveness of CBT lessons at that age. The findings are published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

For the study, researchers enrolled 1362 children from 40 primary schools in southwest England and followed them for one year. Groups were assigned to receive either classroom-based CBT lessons led by teachers, CBT lessons led by health facilitators, or standard school provision.

During CBT, students learned how to identify and handle their emotions and replace their anxious thoughts with more constructive thought patterns. They also developed their problem-solving skills so they could better deal with anxiety-provoking situations.

“These are important findings. The intervention offers an affordable and practical response to the challenges of promoting emotional health in schools,” said Professor Harry Daniels, from the Department of Education at the University of Oxford.

“The need to improve the mental health of children is being increasingly recognized as a global priority given the associated health risks, and the economic and social costs, if such anxieties are not dealt with early on.”

CBT lessons were one-hour long and given to whole classes of children as part of the school curriculum. The findings showed that teacher-led CBT lessons were not as effective as the lessons delivered by health professionals from outside of the school.

According to the researchers, childhood anxiety is very common. It negatively affects their daily lives and increases the risk of severe mental health disorders in adulthood. Prior research has found that by the age of 16, 10 percent of children are affected by an anxiety disorder.

“Schools provide a convenient location to deliver emotional health prevention programs for children. Whilst there are a number of school based programs, few have been scientifically evaluated to determine what effect they have on children’s emotional health,” said lead author Professor Paul Stallard, of the University of Bath’s Department for Health.

The team is now trying to determine whether these reductions in anxiety are maintained after children move on to secondary school.

Source: Oxford University
Children in class room photo by shutterstock.

 

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2014). CBT in Grade School Can Lower Kids’ Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/07/20/cbt-in-elementary-school-curriculum-lowers-childrens-anxiety-levels/72685.html