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Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2008;16(2):113-25. doi: 10.1080/10673220802073956.

Cognitive-behavioral intervention with young anxious children.

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Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.


Despite evidence that preschool and early elementary school-age children can present with anxiety disorders that may put them at risk for later psychopathology and dysfunction, the cognitive-behavioral protocols available for treating anxiety in children have been tested almost exclusively in older children. However, there could be benefits to treating children earlier, before anxiety disorders begin to impair their social and academic development. This report discusses the adaptations necessary in providing cognitive-behavioral therapy to young anxious children and describes a manualized, cognitive-behavioral intervention, with child and parent components, that was piloted openly in nine families with children aged 4 to 7 years - each of whom had multiple risk factors for developing anxiety disorders, and most of whom had already presented with anxiety disorders. Eight of the nine children were judged "much" or "very much improved" at postintervention on number of anxiety diagnoses, number of DSM-IV anxiety symptoms, and ability to cope with feared situations. Cases are presented to illustrate the way that cognitive-behavioral therapy can be conducted with youngsters in this age range. Whereas randomized, controlled trials are needed to confirm the efficacy of this manualized treatment, our experience suggests that cognitive-behavioral protocols for anxiety can be adapted and successfully implemented with young children.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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