Although CBT has proven efficacious in the treatment of child social phobia (SP), most children do not present for treatment and child SP may be less responsive to treatment than other anxiety disorders. Intensive, group-based, SP-specific CBT may improve the efficacy of, and access to, treatment for child SP. The aim of this study was to provide a preliminary examination of such a program.
Forty Australian children aged 7–12 years (15 male and 25 female) were allocated into treatment and waitlist groups. Clinical interviews to determine diagnostic status were conducted prior to treatment, following treatment and at 6-month follow-up. Parent and child questionnaire measures of child anxiety symptoms, internalizing symptoms, depression, social skills, social competence, and parental social anxiety were administered at the same time points. Treatment was delivered in 4 separate 3-hour sessions conducted over 3 consecutive weekends.
At postassessment, 52.4% of children in the treatment group and 15.8% of children in the waitlist group were free of their SP diagnosis. At postassessment, compared to waitlist children, treatment group children demonstrated a greater drop in clinical severity, a greater increase in overall functioning, and held fewer clinical diagnoses. Treatment group children also reported a greater reduction in SP symptoms compared to waitlist children, and treatment group parents reported a greater reduction in child internalizing and anxiety symptoms, a greater increase in child social competence, and a greater decrease in parental SP symptoms, compared to parents of children in the waitlist group. By 6-month follow-up, 76.9% of the treatment group were free of their SP diagnosis and gains on all other measures were maintained.
The results of this study are encouraging, and suggest that brief, intensive, group CBT for children with social anxiety is beneficial for many youngsters.