Improving the Effectiveness of Therapy

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.