BACKGROUND: Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is prevalent among children and adolescents. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) has been used as the first-line treatment. However, evaluation of CBT conducted in a school setting has been scarce.
OBJECTIVES: This study aims to review the CBT and its effectiveness in the school setting for children and adolescents with SAD or social anxiety symptoms. Quality assessment on individual studies was conducted.
METHODS: Studies were identified through the search in PsycINFO, ERIC, PubMed and Medline targeting CBT conducted in a school setting with an aim to treat children and adolescents with SAD or social anxiety symptoms. Randomised controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies were selected.
RESULTS: A total of 7 studies met the inclusion criteria. Five studies were randomised controlled trials, and two were quasi-experimental studies with 2558 participants aged 6-16 years from 138 primary schools and 20 secondary schools. There were minor effects to reduce social anxiety symptoms for children and adolescents at post-intervention in 86% of the selected studies. Friend for Life (FRIENDS), Super Skills for Life (SSL) and Skills for Academic and Social Success (SASS) conducted in school were more effective than the control conditions.
CONCLUSIONS: There is a lack of quality of the evidence for FRIENDS, SSL and SASS, due to inconsistencies on the outcome assessments, statistical analyses, and the fidelity measures adopted in individual studies. Insufficient school funding and workforce with relevant health background, and the low level of parental involvement in the intervention would be the major challenges in school-based CBT for children and adolescents with SAD or social anxiety symptoms.
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