Look for good and never give up: a novel attention training treatment for childhood anxiety disorders

Allison M. Waters*, Melanie J. Zimmer-Gembeck, Michelle G. Craske, Daniel S. Pine, Brendan P. Bradley, Karin Mogg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


Attention bias modification training (ABMT) is a promising treatment for anxiety disorders. Recent evidence suggests that attention training towards positive stimuli, using visual-search based ABMT, has beneficial effects on anxiety and attention biases in children. The present study extends this prior research using distinctive techniques designed to increase participant learning, memory consolidation, and treatment engagement. Fifty-nine clinically anxious children were randomly assigned to the active treatment condition (ATC) (N = 31) or waitlist control condition (WLC) (N = 28). In the ATC, children completed 12 treatment sessions at home on computer in which they searched matrices for a pleasant or calm target amongst unpleasant background pictures, while also engaging in techniques designed to consolidate learning and memory for these search strategies. No contact was made with children in the WLC during the wait period. Diagnostic, parent- and child-reports of anxiety and depressive symptoms, externalising behaviour problems and attention biases were assessed pre- and post-condition and six months after treatment. Children in the ATC showed greater improvements on multiple clinical measures compared to children in the WLC. Post-treatment gains improved six-months after treatment. Attention biases for angry and happy faces did not change significantly from pre-to post-condition. However, larger pre-treatment attention bias towards threat was associated with greater reduction in anxiety at post-treatment. Also, children who showed greater consolidation of learning and memory strategies during treatment achieved greater improvement in global functioning at post-treatment. Attention training towards positive stimuli using enhanced visual-search procedures appears to be a promising treatment for childhood anxiety disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-123
Number of pages13
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Attention
  • Children
  • Modification


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