Children suffering from anxiety and depression could significantly benefit from a novel intervention called Emotion Detectives Treatment Protocol (EDTP), say researchers at the University of Miami.

Anxiety affects around 8 to 22% of children and is often combined with other conditions, such as depression. According to the study, published online in the journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, the severity of anxiety and depression significantly reduced among children who received treatment with EDTP.

The study was conducted by Jill Ehrenreich-May, assistant professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami and her colleague Emily L. Bilek.

Ehrenreich-May, explained:

“We are very excited about the potential of EDTP. Not only could the protocol better address the needs of youth with commonly co-occurring disorders and symptoms, it may also provide additional benefits to mental health professionals. EDTP offers a more unified approach to treatment which, we hope, will allow for an efficient and cost-effective treatment option for clinicians and clients alike.”

The novel program implements age-appropriate techniques that deliver:

  • Education about emotions
  • How to manage emotions
  • Problem solving skills
  • Strategies for assessing situations
  • Parent training
  • Behavior activation – a technique to reduce depression.

The researchers enrolled 22 children aged between 7 to 12 years to participate in the study. Each child had a principal diagnosis of anxiety disorder and secondary issue of depression.

Once a week study participants attended group therapy of EDTP for a total of 15 weeks. Of the 18 children who completed the program, 14 no longer met criteria for anxiety disorder.

Furthermore, only 1 of the 5 children who were assigned a depressive disorder before treatment continued to meet such criteria after the program.

According to the researchers, the presence of depressive symptoms did not predict poorer treatment response. In addition, the findings indicate that the program may be a more effective treatment option for children suffering from anxiety and depression.

Bilek, doctoral candidate in clinical psychology, said:

“Previous research has shown that depressive symptoms tend to weaken treatment response for anxiety disorders. We were hopeful that a broader, more generalized approach would better address this common co-occurrence.

We were not surprised to find that the EDTP had equivalent outcomes for individuals with and without elevated depressive symptoms, but we were certainly pleased to find that this protocol may address this important issue.”

Written by Grace Rattue