Improving the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Therapy for Childhood Anxiety and OCD

Through randomized clinical trials, Dr. Whiteside's laboratory examines the feasibility of dismantling cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for childhood anxiety disorder.

Fourteen children (10 girls) ages 7 to 14 years with social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder or panic disorder were randomized to receive six sessions of either the pre-exposure anxiety management strategies presented in traditional CBT or the parent-coached exposure therapy.

The overall sample improved significantly with pre-post effect sizes generally in the large range for both conditions. Between-group effect sizes indicating greater improvement with parent-coached exposure therapy that were moderate to large for 10 of 12 variables (i.e., 0.53 to 1.52).

Re-evaluation after three months of open treatment suggested that the intervention emphasizing exposure early maintained its superiority while requiring fewer appointments.

Current findings demonstrate the feasibility of conducting a dismantling study. Such research can lead to a better understanding of the treatment components necessary and sufficient to increase the effectiveness and the efficiency of CBT for childhood anxiety disorders.