Background: In individual cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) for youth anxiety disorders, it is unclear whether, and from whose perspective, the alliance predicts outcome. We examined whether youth- and therapist-rated alliance, including level of youth-therapist alliance agreement, predicted outcome in a randomized controlled trial.
Methods: Youth (N = 91, M age = 11.4 years (SD = 2.1), 49.5% boys, 86.8% Caucasian) diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder, social phobia, or generalized anxiety disorder drawn from the ICBT condition of an effectiveness trial were treated with an ICBT program. Youth- and therapist-rated alliance ratings, assessed with the Therapeutic Alliance Scale for Children (TASC-C/T), were collected following session 3 (early) and 7 (late). Early alliance, change in alliance from early to late, and level of youth-therapist agreement on early alliance and alliance change were examined, in relation to outcomes collected at posttreatment and 1-year follow-up. Outcome was defined as primary diagnosis loss and reduction in clinicians' severity ratings (CSR; Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule; ADIS-C/P) based on youth- and parent-report at posttreatment and follow-up, and youth treatment satisfaction collected at posttreatment (Client Satisfaction Scale; CSS).
Results: Early TASC-C scores positively predicted treatment satisfaction at posttreatment. Higher levels of agreement on change in TASC-C and TASC-T scores early to late in treatment predicted diagnosis loss and CSR reduction at follow-up.
Conclusions: Only the level of agreement in alliance change predicted follow-up outcomes in ICBT for youth anxiety disorders. The findings support further examination of the role that youth-therapist alliance discrepancies may play in promoting positive outcomes in ICBT for youth anxiety disorders. Clinical trial number NCT00586586, clinicaltrials.gov.
2016. Vol. 57, no 5, 625-632 p.