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Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is common. It usually starts in adolescence, and without treatment can disrupt key developmental milestones. Existing generic treatments are less effective for young people with SAD than with other anxiety disorders, but an adaptation of an effective adult therapy (CT-SAD-A) has shown promising results for adolescents.
The aim of this study was to conduct a qualitative exploration to contribute towards the evaluation of CT-SAD-A for adoption into Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
We used interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to analyse the transcripts of interviews with a sample of six young people, six parents and seven clinicians who were learning the treatment.
Three cross-cutting themes were identified: (i) endorsing the treatment; (ii) finding therapy to be collaborative and active; challenging but helpful; and (iii) navigating change in a complex setting. Young people and parents found the treatment to be useful and acceptable, although simultaneously challenging. This was echoed by the clinicians, with particular reference to integrating CT-SAD-A within community CAMHS settings.
The acceptability of the treatment with young people, their parents and clinicians suggests further work is warranted in order to support its development and implementation within CAMHS settings.
Cognitive therapy, based on the Clark and Wells (1995) model, is a first-line treatment for adults with social anxiety disorder (SAD), and findings from research settings suggest it has promise for use with adolescents (Cognitive Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder in Adolescents; CT-SAD-A). However, for the treatment to be suitable for delivery in routine clinical care, two questions need to be addressed.
Can therapists be trained to achieve good outcomes in routine Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), and what are the costs associated with training and treatment?
CAMHS therapists working in two NHS trusts received training in CT-SAD-A. They delivered the treatment to adolescents with SAD during a period of supervised practice. We examined the clinical outcomes for the 12 patients treated during this period, and estimated costs associated with treatment and training.
Treatment produced significant improvements in social anxiety symptoms, general anxiety and depression symptoms, and reductions in putative process measures. Seventy-five per cent (9 out of 12) patients showed a reliable and clinically significant improvement in social anxiety symptoms, and 64% (7/11) lost their primary diagnosis of SAD. The total cost to the NHS of the CT-SAD-A treatment was £4047 (SD = £1003) per adolescent treated, of which £1861 (SD = £358) referred to the specific estimated cost of face-to-face delivery; the remaining cost was for training and supervising therapists who were not previously familiar with the treatment.
This study provides preliminary evidence that clinicians can deliver good patient outcomes for adolescents with SAD in routine CAMHS during a period of supervised practice after receiving a 2-day training workshop. Furthermore, the cost of delivering CT-SAD-A with adolescents appeared to be no more than the cost of delivering CT-SAD with adults.
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