Psychology professor aims to develop tool to assess how therapists treat youth anxiety

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Bryce McLeod, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, recently received a $431,244 federal grant to develop an instrument to assess the effectiveness of therapists’ treatment of young people with anxiety.

The grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, “Development of a Pragmatic Treatment Integrity Instrument for Child Therapy,” aims to develop a practical, short and easy-to-use observational treatment integrity instrument capable of assessing the extent to which a therapist delivers cognitive behavioral therapy for youth anxiety with integrity and skill. The development of this practical instrument will help support the evaluation, implementation and sustainability of evidence-based treatments in community settings.

McLeod, who is also the clinical child/adolescent track director in the Department of Psychology and is associate editor of the journal Behavior Therapy, explained the grant’s objectives and why such an instrument is needed.

Why is it important to develop an instrument to assess the effectiveness of treatment for young people with anxiety?

The development of a practical, short and easy-to-use observational treatment integrity instrument may be able to help support the training of therapists to use evidence-based treatment for youth anxiety in community-based mental health clinics.

How widespread is the problem of youth anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric problems experienced by youth and they lead to substantial impairment and burden. Lifetime prevalence rates of anxiety disorders range from 6 percent to 15 percent.

What does the current treatment for youth anxiety typically involve?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for youth anxiety has the most empirical support; however, CBT is not used by all therapists who treat youth with anxiety. So, the answer to this question depends, in part, on where the youth and their family seek mental health services.

What will the development of this instrument entail?

Advanced statistical analyses designed to inform the development of the instrument along with observational coding of recorded therapy sessions of therapists delivering psychosocial treatments for youth diagnosed with anxiety disorders.

How does this project fit into your larger body of scholarship?

The overarching goal of my research is to improve the quality of mental health care for youth in community settings, such as clinics and schools. This grant may help us develop tools that can help train therapists employed in community settings to use evidence-based practices.


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