Acceptance and Commitment Therapy versus cognitive behavior therapy for children with anxiety

outcomes of a randomized controlled trial

Karen M. Hancock*, Jessica Swain, Cassandra J. Hainsworth, Angela L. Dixon, Siew Koo, Karen Munro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has a growing empirical base in the treatment of anxiety among adults and children with other concerns. This study reports on the main outcomes of a randomized controlled trial of ACT and traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in children with a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.) anxiety disorder. Participants were 193 children from urban Sydney, Australia, who were block-randomized to a 10-week group-based program of ACT or CBT or a 10-week waitlist control (WLC). Completers included 157 children (ACT = 54, CBT = 57, WLC = 46; M = 11 years, SD = 2.76; 78% Caucasian, 58% female). Pretreatment, posttreatment, and 3 months posttreatment assessments included clinician/self/parent-reported measures of anxiety, quality of life (QOL; anxiety interference, psychosocial and physical health-related QOL), and acceptance/defusion outcomes. Completer and intention-to-treat analyses revealed that ACT and CBT were both superior to WLC across outcomes, reflecting statistically and clinically significant differences, with gains maintained at 3 months posttreatment. Both completer and intention-to-treat analyses found ACT and CBT to produce similar outcomes. There was some support for ACT having greater effect sizes for QOL outcomes but not for avoidance/fusion. Although this study does not suggest that ACT is equivalent to CBT or should be adopted in its place, it does provide evidence that ACT might be another empirically supported treatment option for anxious youth. Further research is needed to replicate these findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296–311
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date21 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes

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