Individual cognitive-behavioral therapy improves anxiety in children

Individual cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is more effective than supportive child-centered therapy (CCT) in treating childhood anxiety disorders, according to a recent study funded by NIMH.

Youth aged 9-14 y with anxiety disorders (generalized, separation, and/or social anxiety) were randomized in a 2:1 ratio to receive either CBT (N=90) or CCT (N=43) over 16 sessions (with two parent sessions). CBT consisted of anxiety management skills and coping mechanisms whereas CCT consisted of nondirective therapy focused on active listening, reflection, and discussing emotions. Outcomes measured included treatment response and recovery and emotional functioning post treatment and at a one-year follow-up.

Both groups benefited from treatment, but youth receiving CBT were more likely to fully recover, no longer meet criteria for diagnosed anxiety disorders, and no longer display residual symptoms (66.7% for CBT vs. 46.5% for CCT). Those treated with CBT also responded better to negative life events in the second half of treatment. At one-year follow-up, a higher percentage of youth treated with CBT were still in recovery compared to those treated with CCT (82.2% for CBT vs. 65.1% for CCT).

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