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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy versus Cognitive Behavior Therapy for children with anxiety: Outcomes of a randomized controlled trial

APA Citation

Hancock, K. M., Swain, J., Hainsworth, C. J., Dixon, A. L., Koo, S., & Munro, K. (2018). Acceptance and commitment therapy versus cognitive behavior therapy for children with anxiety: Outcomes of a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 47, 296-311. DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2015.1110822

Publication Topic
ACT: Empirical
Publication Type

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has a growing empirical base in the treatment of anxiety among adults and children with other concerns. This study reports on the main outcomes of a randomized controlled trial of ACT and traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in children with a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.) anxiety disorder. Participants were 193 children from urban Sydney, Australia, who were block-randomized to a 10-week group-based program of ACT or CBT or a 10-week waitlist control (WLC). Completers included 157 children (ACT = 54, CBT = 57, WLC = 46; M = 11 years, SD = 2.76; 78% Caucasian, 58% female). Pretreatment, posttreatment, and 3 months posttreatment assessments included clinician/self/parent-reported measures of anxiety, quality of life (QOL; anxiety interference, psychosocial and physical health-related QOL), and acceptance/defusion outcomes. Completer and intention-to-treat analyses revealed that ACT and CBT were both superior to WLC across outcomes, reflecting statistically and clinically significant differences, with gains maintained at 3 months posttreatment. Both completer and intention-to-treat analyses found ACT and CBT to produce similar outcomes. There was some support for ACT having greater effect sizes for QOL outcomes but not for avoidance/fusion. Although this study does not suggest that ACT is equivalent to CBT or should be adopted in its place, it does provide evidence that ACT might be another empirically supported treatment option for anxious youth. Further research is needed to replicate these findings.