May 2, 2021

Exposure-Focused CBT Outperforms Relaxation-Based Control in an RCT of Treatment for Child and Adolescent Anxiety

New paper published by Emily L. Bilek, Ph.D., ABPP, et al., in Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the gold-standard treatment for anxiety disorders in youth; however, many youth who receive CBT still do not experience a full recovery. Some research suggests that treatment could be improved by emphasizing the exposure therapy (i.e. systematically facing your fears) component of CBT. The current study compared a relaxation-based control (Relaxation Mentorship Treatment; RMT) condition to exposure-focused CBT (EF-CBT). The results show that youth who received EF-CBT had larger reductions in anxiety symptoms than those who received RMT, and that those who received EF-CBT were more likely to be rated as “very much” or “much improved” by the end of 12 weeks of treatment than those who received RMT.

"This research provides evidence of the importance of exposure in treating youth anxiety. While it is a commonly used treatment within specialty clinics, some research suggests that families and community clinicians are reluctant to engage with exposure therapy. This further supports both the safety and efficacy of exposure therapy for youth," says Emily Bilek, Ph.D.

You can read the manuscript here.

This manuscript was published as part of an ongoing neuroimaging trial, led by Dr. Kate Fitzgerald and Dr. Chris Monk. Stay tuned for results from this trial which will examine brain-behavioral correlates of youth anxiety, and response to CBT. You can read more about this ongoing study here.