Evaluating the real-world effectiveness of a cognitive behavior therapy-based transdiagnostic program for emotional problems in children in a regular school setting

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Journal Article
Journal of Affective Disorders, 2019, 253 pp. 357 - 365
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© 2019 Elsevier B.V. Background: The present study examined the real-world effectiveness of a transdiagnostic prevention program, Super Skills for Life (SSL), among children with emotional problems in regular school settings. SSL is based on the principles of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), behavioral activation, and social skills training. Methods: Participants were 205 children, aged 8–12 years, who were referred by their teachers as having significant emotional problems. All the children completed measures of emotional and behavioral problems and self-esteem, both before and after participating in SSL, and at six months after the intervention. The children's parents and class teachers also completed a questionnaire that measures children's general difficulties and positive attributes. Children also gave a 2-minute speech task in front of the video in sessions 1 and 8. Results: There was agreement among self, parent, and teacher report, showing significant decreases of emotional symptoms from pretest to posttest and pretest to follow-up. Main effect of gender was significant for anxiety symptoms, emotional symptoms peer problems, and prosocial behavior. Video analysis of the 2-minute speech task showed significant improvement in length of eye gaze, vocal quality, length of speech, manifestation of comfort, and conversational flow. However, hypothesized increases in self-esteem did not act as a mediator of change in pre- to post-anxiety symptoms or social phobia subscale scores. Limitations: The present study used an open clinical trial design. Conclusions: This study provides initial support for the effectiveness of the manual-guided CBT for emotional problems in regular school settings when delivered by school services staff.
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