Anxiety In Children: Emotional Detectives May Help
July 31, 2012

New Therapy Developed For Treating Anxiety In Children

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Feeling sad. Down in the dumps. Looking blue. However stated, these three phrases all mean the same thing — depression. Different factors can cause an individual to have depression and anxiety, and now they are not just relegated to adults -- children can suffer from the disorder as well. A recently published study from the University of Miami (UM) looked at how participants can slowly move out of the state of depression with an innovative new therapy. The findings are published in the online edition of the journal Behavior Therapy.

According to the Department of Psychology at UM, 8 to 22 percent of children battle anxiety along with other conditions like depression. Previously, many therapies were developed to treat coexisting psychological problems. However, these treatments were not able to fully assist children who have complex emotional issues. The researchers believe that the Emotional Detectives Treatment Protocol (EDTP) is a possible intervention that could more effectively treat those who demonstrate youth anxiety and depression.

“We are very excited about the potential of EDTP,” commented UM psychologist Jill Ehrenreich-May, an associate professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at UM and principal investigator of the study, in a prepared statement. “Not only could the protocol better address the needs of youth with commonly co-occurring disorders and symptoms, it may also provide additional benefits to mental health professionals“¦ EDTP offers a more unified approach to treatment that, we hope, will allow for an efficient and cost-effective treatment option for clinicians and clients alike.”

Early findings demonstrate that EDTP has been able to reduce the severity of anxiety and depression. EDTP, an adapted version of two treatment protocols originally designed for adolescents and adults, offers age-appropriate technologies for students to learn about emotions and how to better manage them. Some of the education included in the therapy features problem-solving skills, parent training, and ways to evaluate situations.

The project included 22 children participants who were between the ages of 7 and 12. The subjects, diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and a secondary issue of depression, were involved in weekly group therapy of EDPT that spanned over 15 weeks. At the end of the study period, 18 out of 22 completed the protocol and 14 no longer showed symptoms of having an anxiety disorder. With such positive results, the researchers believe that EDTP could be a possible solution for children who have experienced anxiety and depression.

“Previous research has shown that depressive symptoms tend to weaken treatment response for anxiety disorders. We were hopeful that a broader, more generalized approach would better address this common co-occurrence,” commented co-author Emily Bilek, a UM doctoral candidate in clinical psychology, in the statement. “We were not surprised to find that the EDTP had equivalent outcomes for individuals with and without elevated depressive symptoms, but we were certainly pleased to find that this protocol may address this important issue.”

Moving forward, the two investigators will be conducting a randomized controlled trial that compares EDPT with another group treatment protocol that also focuses on anxiety disorders.