More young people with anxiety are able to get help faster than before, thanks to a new parent-led treatment developed by Reading researchers.

Up to one fifth of children and adolescents are affected by anxiety disorders at some point while growing up, putting them at risk for serious mental health difficulties later in life. Many don’t seek help, and those that do often have to wait a long time for treatment.

To tackle this problem, Reading’s Professor Cathy Creswell and Professor Lynne Murray have developed a new cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) treatment which is led by parents and takes less than six hours to carry out.

At the heart of the treatment is their discovery of a link between mums who express social anxiety – such as fear of meeting new people – and anxiety disorders in their children. The treatment guides and supports parents to apply CBT techniques in their children’s day-to-day lives to help them beat their anxiety while teaching parents to recognise and change their own behaviour.

More research by the Reading team has proven that non-specialist therapists can deliver the treatment just as effectively as specialists. Now part of the national curricula for NHS mental health therapists, thousands of staff working in schools and clinics across England have been trained in the new technique. Accordingly, more children with anxiety can be treated, at a faster pace, with the majority (74%) making a full recovery afterwards.

Professor Creswell has published three books for parents to help their children overcome anxiety which have sold 52,000 copies and been translated into five languages. These join her manuals, clinician guides, Top Tips for GPs, webinars, podcasts and an online version of the treatment, bringing help and a happier future to many more anxious children.

Find out more
View the full impact case study on the REF 2021 website: Improving access to evidence-based treatments for children with anxiety disorders.