CBT for childhood anxiety disorders: differential changes in selective attention between treatment responders and non-responders

Jeroen S. Legerstee, Joke H. M. Tulen, Bram Dierckx, Philip D. A. Treffers, Frank C. Verhulst, Elisabeth M. W. J. Utens

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43 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study examined whether treatment response to stepped-care cognitive-behavioural treatment (CBT) is associated with changes in threat-related selective attention and its specific components in a large clinical sample of anxiety-disordered children. Ninety-one children with an anxiety disorder were included in the present study. Children received a standardized stepped-care CBT. Three treatment response groups were distinguished: initial responders (anxiety disorder free after phase one: child-focused CBT), secondary responders (anxiety disorder free after phase two: child-parent-focused CBT), and treatment non-responders. Treatment response was determined using a semi-structured clinical interview. Children performed a pictorial dot-probe task before and after stepped-care CBT (i.e., before phase one and after phase two CBT). Changes in selective attention to severely threatening pictures, but not to mildly threatening pictures, were significantly associated with treatment success. At pre-treatment assessment, initial responders selectively attended away from severely threatening pictures, whereas secondary responders selectively attended toward severely threatening pictures. After stepped-care CBT, initial and secondary responders did not show any selectivity in the attentional processing of severely threatening pictures. Treatment non-responders did not show any changes in selective attention due to CBT. Initial and secondary treatment responders showed a reduction of their predisposition to selectively attend away or toward severely threatening pictures, respectively. Treatment non-responders did not show any changes in selective attention. The pictorial dot-probe task can be considered a potentially valuable tool in assigning children to appropriate treatment formats as well as for monitoring changes in selective attention during the course of CBT
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-172
JournalJournal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines
Volume51
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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