Title

Can School Counselors Deliver Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Social Anxiety Effectively? a Randomized Controlled Trial

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

11-1-2016

Abstract

Background: Social anxiety disorder (SAD) typically onsets in adolescence and is associated with multiple impairments. Despite promising clinical interventions, most socially anxious adolescents remain untreated. To address this clinical neglect, we developed a school-based, 12-week group intervention for youth with SAD, Skills for Academic and Social Success (SASS). When implemented by psychologists, SASS has been found effective. To promote dissemination and optimize treatment access, we tested whether school counselors could be effective treatment providers. Method: We randomized 138, ninth through 11th graders with SAD to one of three conditions: (a) SASS delivered by school counselors (C-SASS), (b) SASS delivered by psychologists (P-SASS), or (c) a control condition, Skills for Life (SFL), a nonspecific counseling program. Blind, independent, evaluations were conducted with parents and adolescents at baseline, post-intervention, and 5 months beyond treatment completion. We hypothesized that C-SASS and P-SASS would be superior to the control, immediately after treatment and at follow-up. No prediction was made about the relative efficacy of C-SASS and P-SASS. Results: Compared to controls, adolescents treated with C-SASS or P-SASS experienced significantly greater improvement and reductions of anxiety at the end of treatment and follow-up. There were no significant differences between SASS delivered by school counselors and psychologists. Conclusion: With training, school counselors are effective treatment providers to adolescents with social anxiety, yielding benefits comparable to those obtained by specialized psychologists. Questions remain regarding means to maintain counselors’ practice standards without external support.

DOI

10.1111/jcpp.12550

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