Objective: Working to optimize treatment outcome and use resources efficiently, investigators conducted the first test of an existing parent-only group cognitive-behavioral therapy protocol to treat 24 children 7 to 16 years old with primary anxiety disorder diagnoses.
Method: Over the course of 7 months, the authors evaluated a manual-based therapy protocol that teaches parents skills to work with their children as lay therapists in the context of their ongoing interactions and daily life. This was an uncontrolled pilot study, examining within-subject outcomes via measures from multiple informants, aimed at generating estimates of effect size.
Results: Children demonstrated significant improvement on parent- and clinician-rated measures of anxiety. Twenty-five percent of primary anxiety diagnoses fully remitted, and the average number of anxiety diagnoses dropped from 3.4 to 1.5. The intervention had a large effect on anxiety disorder severity and impairment, parental attitudes, targeted anxious behavior problems, and clinician-rated impairment. Children with anxiety-disordered parents reported more improvement than children whose parents were not anxious. The intervention was acceptable to families.
Conclusions: The results of this pilot study suggest that parents acting as lay cognitive-behavioral therapists for their anxious children may be effectively and acceptably trained in a group format.