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Depress Anxiety. 2010 Oct;27(10):945-52. doi: 10.1002/da.20724.

The feelings club: randomized controlled evaluation of school-based CBT for anxious or depressive symptoms.

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Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Canada.



Children with anxious or depressive symptoms are at risk of developing internalizing disorders and their attendant morbidity. To prevent these outcomes, school-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been developed, but few studies include active control conditions. We evaluated a preventive CBT program targeting internalizing symptoms relative to an activity contrast condition post-intervention and at 1-year follow-up.


One thousand one hundred and thirty-nine children from Grades 3-6 from a diverse sample of schools, were screened with the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children and Children's Depression Inventory. Those with t>60 on either measure were offered participation in a randomized 12-week trial, school-based group CBT versus a structured after-school activity group of equal duration. We explored several therapeutic elements as potential predictors of change.


One hundred and forty-eight children participated (84 boys, 64 girls; 78 CBT, 70 contrast; 57% Caucasian) and 145 completed the program. Self-reported anxious and depressive symptoms decreased significantly over time (η(2)=.15 and .133, respectively), with no group by time interaction. There was a trend toward fewer children meeting diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder on the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule at 1-year post-CBT than post-contrast (6/76 versus 12/69). Positive reinforcement of child behavior was associated with change in anxiety symptoms; checking homework was understood with change in depressive symptoms.


Findings suggest that children with internalizing symptoms may benefit from both school-based CBT and structured activity programs. Replication, longer follow-up, and further studies of therapeutic elements in child CBT are indicated. ISRCTN Registry identifier: ISRCTN88858028, url:

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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