School-based targeted prevention compared to specialist mental health treatment for youth anxiety
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionChild and Adolescent Mental Health. 2020, 25 (2), 102-109. 10.1111/camh.12366
Background The ‘FRIENDS for life’ program (FRIENDS) is a 10-session cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program used for prevention and treatment of youth anxiety. There is discussion about whether FRIENDS is best applied as prevention or as treatment. Methods We compared FRIENDS delivered in schools as targeted prevention to a previous specialist mental health clinic trial. The targeted prevention sample (N = 82; Mage = 11.6 years, SD = 2.1; 75.0% girls) was identified and recruited by school nurses in collaboration with a community psychologist. The clinical sample (N = 88, Mage = 11.7 years, SD = 2.1; 54.5% girls) was recruited for a randomized controlled trial from community child- and adolescent psychiatric outpatient clinics and was diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Results Both samples showed significantly reduced anxiety symptoms from baseline to postintervention, with medium mean effect sizes across raters (youths and parents) and timepoints (post; 12-months follow-up). Baseline youth-reported anxiety symptom levels were similar between the samples, whereas parent-reported youth anxiety was higher in the clinical sample. Conclusions The study suggests that self-reported anxiety levels may not differ between youth recruited in schools and in clinic settings. The results indicate promising results of the FRIENDS program when delivered in schools by less specialized health personnel from the school health services, as well as when delivered in clinics by trained mental health professionals.