Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Tailored for Adolescent Anxiety Disorders

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, May 4–10

Launching Emerging Adults Program—LEAP—therapy for individuals ages 18 to 28 was developed by Anne Marie Albano, PhD, a clinical researcher at Columbia and the New York State Psychiatric Institute whose work focuses on developing and testing psychotherapy approaches for anxiety and mood disorders.

Recognizing that young adults with anxiety disorders face unique, age-related challenges, Dr. Albano and her team at the Columbia University Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CUCARD) adapted the core components of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for treating adolescents, adding specific therapy procedures designed to address patient-caretaker dependency, role transitions, and the attainment of behaviors necessary for independent adult functioning.

“Development of a transition-focused CBT protocol for emerging adults with anxiety disorders is critical and a public health issue,” said Dr. Albano.

Adolescents with anxiety disorders typically have co-occurring mood, anxiety, and substance-use disorders, leading to serious distress, disability, and impairment in functioning—specifically in the ability to become independent and move forward into college or the workforce.

Evidence supports the effectiveness of combination CBT and medication treatment for anxiety disorders in adolescents and children. Studies of long-term improvement and developmental outcomes, however, are lacking. LEAP is testing an integrated, developmentally informed, psychosocial treatment approach aimed both at improving symptoms in young adults and at arming them with the tools necessary to assume their independence.