Led by Dr Maki Rooksby, University of Glasgow
There are over 5 million sufferers of anxiety disorders; in 2010, the estimate of its cost to the UK was nearly £10 billion. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in childhood (up to 40%) and often co-occur with other mental health and neurodevelopmental problems. Anxiety disorders are also suspected to be under-diagnosed amongst children. Even among those children and young people receiving a diagnosis, a significant majority do not receive treatment. Anxious children often become anxious adults with a profound impact on wellbeing and productivity; thus, it is important for the child and their families, as well as for society, that they receive help as early as possible. Recent development of online-assisted cognitive behavioural therapy suggests that this could be an effective alternative to the clinic-based intervention for childhood anxiety disorders. While children seem happy to use these tools, the evidence is mixed around efficacy, and much seems to depend on human input such as online progress monitoring by trained coaches. In addition, many children drop out of these treatments. This proposal addresses the unmet need for the availability of anxiety treatments for children by developing a technology to enhance therapeutic benefit both in and out of the consultation room. Using narrative play technique, widely used in developmental psychology, will create unique and specific opportunities for encouraging anxious children to explore and process their fears and worries at times and in spaces that feel safe to them.