Although literature provides support for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as an efficacious intervention for social phobia, more research is needed to improve treatments for children.
Forty four Caucasian children (ages 8-14) meeting diagnostic criteria of social phobia according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; APA, 1994) were randomly allocated to either a newly developed CBT program focusing on cognition according to the model of Clark and Wells (n = 21) or a wait-list control group (n = 23). The primary outcome measure was clinical improvement. Secondary outcomes included improvements in anxiety coping, dysfunctional cognitions, interaction frequency and comorbid symptoms. Outcome measures included child report and clinican completed measures as well as a diagnostic interview.
Significant differences between treatment participants (4 dropouts) and controls (2 dropouts) were observed at post test on the German version of the Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory for Children. Furthermore, in the treatment group, significantly more children were free of diagnosis than in wait-list group at post-test. Additional child completed and clinician completed measures support the results.
The study is a first step towards investigating whether CBT focusing on cognition is efficacious in treating children with social phobia. Future research will need to compare this treatment to an active treatment group. There remain the questions of whether the effect of the treatment is specific to the disorder and whether the underlying theoretical model is adequate.
Preliminary support is provided for the efficacy of the cognitive behavioral treatment focusing on cognition in socially phobic children. Active comparators should be established with other evidence-based CBT programs for anxiety disorders, which differ significantly in their dosage and type of cognitive interventions from those of the manual under evaluation (e.g. Coping Cat).