Children with chronic physical illness are significantly more likely to develop common psychiatric symptoms than otherwise healthy children. These children therefore warrant effective integrated healthcare yet it is not established whether the known, effective, psychological treatments for symptoms of common childhood mental health disorders work in children with chronic physical illness.
EMBASE, MEDLINE, PsycINFO and CINAHL databases were searched with predefined terms relating to evidence-based psychological interventions for psychiatric symptoms in children with chronic physical illness. We included all studies (randomised and non-randomised designs) investigating interventions aimed primarily at treating common psychiatric symptoms in children with a chronic physical illness in the review. Two reviewers independently assessed the relevance of abstracts identified, extracted data and undertook quality analysis.
Ten studies (209 children, including 70 in control groups) met the criteria for inclusion in the review. All studies demonstrated some positive outcomes of cognitive behavioural therapy for the treatment of psychiatric symptoms in children with chronic physical illness. Only two randomised controlled trials, both investigating interventions for symptoms of depression, were found.
There is preliminary evidence that cognitive behavioural therapy has positive effects in the treatment of symptoms of depression and anxiety in children with chronic physical illness. However, the current evidence base is weak and fully powered randomised controlled trials are needed to establish the efficacy of psychological treatments in this vulnerable population.
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