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Innovations in the psychosocial treatment of youth with anxiety disorders: implications for a stepped care approach
  1. Thomas H Ollendick1,
  2. Lars-Göran Öst2,
  3. Lara J Farrell3
  1. 1 Department of Psychology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
  2. 2 Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3 School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University, Southport, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas H Ollendick, Department of Psychology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA; tho{at}


Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent among children and adolescents and frequently result in impairments across multiple domains of life. While psychosocial interventions, namely cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), have been found to be highly effective in treating these conditions, significant numbers of youth simply do not have access to these evidence-based interventions, and of those who do, a substantial proportion (up to 40%) fail to achieve remission. Thus, there is a pressing need for innovation in both the delivery of evidence-based treatments and efforts to enhance treatment outcomes for those who do not respond to standard care. This paper reviews current innovations attempting to address these issues, including evidence for brief, low-intensity approaches to treatment; internet delivered CBT and brief, high-intensity CBT. Moreover, we propose a model of stepped care delivery of evidence-based mental health interventions for children and youth with anxiety. In general, a stepped care approach begins with a lower intensity, evidence-based treatment that entails minimal therapist involvement (ie, brief, low-intensity self-help or internet delivered CBT) and then proceeds to more intensive treatments with greater therapist involvement (ie, brief high-intensity CBT), but only for those individuals who show a poor response at each step along the way. Future research is needed in order to evaluate such a model, and importantly, to identify predictors and moderators of response at each step, in order to inform an evidence-based, fully-integrated stepped care approach to service delivery.

  • anxiety disorders
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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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