A new article in The Lancet Psychiatry investigates the effect of a classroom-based cognitive behaviour therapy programme called FRIENDS on anxiety symptoms in children. The authors conducted a three-group cluster randomised controlled trial. A total of 45 primary schools in southwest England were recruited into the trial, which took place in the 2011/2012 school year. Pupils aged 9 and 10 (n=497) were randomly assigned to receive either school-led FRIENDS (led by a teacher or school staff member), health-led FRIENDS (led by two trained health facilitators), or their usual school provision. Outcomes were collected by a self-completed questionnaire.
The authors found that training teachers to deliver the programme was not as effective as delivery by health professionals. After 12 months, there were significant improvements in the children's self-reported low mood and anxiety for those that had received the health-led intervention compared to the school-led approach. However, the school-led approach was more effective than normal provision.
The report concludes that universally delivered anxiety prevention programmes can be effective when used in schools. However, programme effectiveness varies depending on who delivers them.
Source: Classroom-based Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (FRIENDS): A Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial to Prevent Anxiety in Children through Education in Schools (PACES) (2014), The Lancet Psychiatry, 1(3).