Feasibility of guided cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) self-help for childhood anxiety disorders in primary care

Ment Health Fam Med. 2010 Mar;7(1):49-57.


Anxiety disorders in childhood are common, disabling and run a chronic course. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is effective but expensive and trained therapists are scarce. Guided self-help treatments may be a means of widening access to treatment. This study aimed to examine the feasibility of guided CBT self-help in primary care for childhood anxiety disorders, specifically in terms of therapist adherence, patient and therapist satisfaction and clinical gain.Participants were children aged between five and 12 years referred to two primary child and adolescent mental health services (PCAMHSs) in Oxfordshire, UK, who met diagnostic criteria for a primary anxiety disorder. Of the 52 eligible children, 41 anxious children were assessed for anxiety severity and interference before and after receiving CBT self-help delivered via a parent (total therapy time = five hours) by primary mental health workers (PMHWs). Therapy sessions were rated for treatment adherence and parents and PMHWs completed satisfaction questionnaires after treatment completion. Over 80% of therapy sessions were rated at a high level of treatment adherence. Parents and PMHWs reported high satisfaction with the treatment. Sixty-one percent of the children assessed no longer met the criteria for their primary anxiety disorder diagnosis following treatment, and 76% were rated as 'much'/'very much' improved on the Clinical Global Impression-Improvement (CGI-I) scale. There were significant reductions on parent and child report measures of anxiety symptoms, interference and depression. Preliminary exploration indicated that parental anxiety was associated with child treatment outcome. The findings suggest that guided CBT self-help represents a promising treatment for childhood anxiety in primary care.