Anxiety and other psychological problems are common in children. Some estimates suggest as many as 22 per cent of children experience anxiety with or without a co-existing problem like depression. The problem to date is that existing therapies have tended not to focus on more complex emotional problems and this results in poor success rates.
Dr. Jill Ehrenreich-May and doctoral student Emily L. Bilek have recently published promising results from a new treatment protocol they term Emotion Detectives Treatment Protocol (EDTP). This adaptation of two existing treatments is an education program that that teaches children about their emotions, ways to problem-solve, techniques to reduce depression and strategies to evaluate situations.
During the clinical trial, 22 children with a diagnosis of anxiety disorder and secondary issues of depression took part in a 15-session weekly group therapy. Children were in the age range 7-12. Eighteen of the children completed the study and of these 14 no longer met the criteria for anxiety disorder. Moreover, of the five children who had previously been assigned a depressive disorder, only one continued to meet the criteria at post-treatment.
The unusual feature of these results is the fact that in previous studies the presence of depressive symptoms led to poor treatment outcomes. This treatment package not only had a very high attendance rate, the presence of depressive symptoms did not predict poor treatment outcomes.
EDTP represents a broader, more generalized approach, that the investigators hope will benefit children with more complex emotional problems. The next step is for the team to conduct a randomized controlled trial comparing the EDTP to another group treatment protocol for anxiety disorder.
Emily L. Bilek, Jill Ehrenreich-May. An Open Trial Investigation of a Transdiagnostic Group Treatment for Children With Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms. Behavior Therapy, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.beth.2012.04.007