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Parent cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for children with anxiety

Children's Mental Health: Anxiety
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated May 2018.
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Parent-only cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) programs for children with anxiety teach parents how to use cognitive behavioral approaches with their anxious children. CBT uses cognitive restructuring and self-talk, exposure to feared stimuli, and other strategies to treat mental health conditions, including anxiety. Parent-only CBT interventions are typically delivered by therapists in individual or group format in an outpatient setting. In programs in this analysis, parents of 3- to 12-year-old children with anxiety disorders were expected to attend eight to ten weekly sessions, either individually or in groups. On average, families received seven therapeutic hours over two months.
For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $1,738 Benefits minus costs $6,606
Participants $3,513 Benefit to cost ratio n/a
Others $281 Chance the program will produce
Indirect $451 benefits greater than the costs 92%
Total benefits $5,983
Net program cost $624
Benefits minus cost $6,606

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
7 3 137 -0.476 0.199 7 -0.188 0.163 8 -0.796 0.001
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Anxiety disorder K-12 grade repetition $7 $0 $0 $4 $11
Labor market earnings associated with anxiety disorder $1,459 $3,436 $0 $0 $4,894
Health care associated with anxiety disorder $272 $77 $281 $136 $766
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 $312 $312
Totals $1,738 $3,513 $281 $451 $5,983
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Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $475 2015 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) $624
Comparison costs $927 2010 Cost range (+ or -) 20%
In studies included in this analysis, participants received an average of seven hours of therapist time. Per-participant cost estimates are based on weighted average therapist time, as reported in the treatment studies. Hourly therapist cost is based on the actuarial estimates of reimbursement by modality (Mercer. (2016). Mental health and substance use disorder services data book for the state of Washington). For comparison group costs, we use 2010 Washington State DSHS data to estimate the average reimbursement rate for anxiety treatment for children and adolescents.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Kennedy, S. J., Rapee, R. M., & Edwards, S. L. (2009). A selective intervention program for inhibited preschool-aged children of parents with an anxiety disorder: Effects on current anxiety disorders and temperament. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 48(6), 602-609.

Thirlwall, K., Cooper, P.J., Karalus, J., Voysey, M., Willetts, L., & Creswell, C. (2013). Treatment of child anxiety disorders via guided parent-delivered cognitive-behavioural therapy: Randomised controlled trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 203(6), 436-444.

Waters, A.M., Ford, L.A., Wharton, T.A., & Cobham, V.E. (2009). Cognitive-behavioural therapy for young children with anxiety disorders: Comparison of a child + parent condition versus a parent only condition. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 47(8), 654-662.