A randomized-controlled trial of a one-week summer treatment program for childhood separation anxiety disorder
Santucci, Lauren C.
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Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is the most common and impairing childhood anxiety disorder. Left untreated, SAD is associated with heightened risk for the development of additional internalizing disorders as well as impairments in educational attainment and social functioning. Numerous clinical trials have demonstrated the efficacy of cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) for the treatment of childhood anxiety disorders, including SAD. However, additional research is needed to enhance the compatibility (e.g., fit of the treatment to the patient population) and ultimate uptake of evidence-based interventions for anxious youth. The current research evaluates the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of an intensive, cognitive-behavioral intervention for school-aged girls with SAD provided within the novel context of a one-week camp-like setting. This alternative treatment format was predicated on evidence supporting the need for treatments that allow for creative and developmentally-sensitive applications of intervention components, incorporate a child's social context, target relevant parenting variables, and provide additional models for treatment delivery. Twenty-nine female children aged 7 to 12 with a principal or co-principal diagnosis of SAD were randomized to an immediate treatment (n = 15) or waitlist (i.e., delayed treatment; n = 14) condition during the course of this randomized-controlled trial. Measures were administered at pretreatment/ pre-waitlist, post-treatment/post-waitlist, and six weeks following treatment to assess changes in symptom reports, functional outcomes, and overall program satisfaction. Analyses of covariance were conducted to assess effects of treatment condition and repeated measures analyses of variance were conducted to evaluate change over the three data collection time points. Relative to waitlist, children in the immediate treatment group evidenced significant reductions in SAD severity by clinician report on a diagnostic interview measure. Moreover, treatment gains strengthened over time. Contrary to hypotheses, children receiving the intervention did not display significantly greater improvements relative to waitlist on parent-rated fear and avoidance scores or on parent or child self-report measures. Potential explanations for non-significant findings are discussed. Overall, the intervention's positive therapeutic response on SAD diagnostic status and severity suggests one possible delivery model for surmounting difficulties faced in the dissemination of standard, weekly treatments for this condition.
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