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One-session treatment is as effective as multi-session therapy for young people with phobias

Year of publication

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help children and young people overcome fears (phobias). It is routinely delivered over multiple sessions. A new study showed that one-session treatment is as effective as multi-session CBT, and is cheaper.

Phobias are intense fears of everyday objects or situations (such as dogs or having injections) that have a severe impact on children’s ability to enjoy everyday life. Multiple session CBT is effective, but it is expensive, takes time, and appointments can be hard to get.

Researchers explored whether one-session treatment could be an alternative. It works in a similar way to CBT but takes place in one main 3-hour session. They compared one-session treatment with multi-session CBT as usually delivered to children with phobias.

The treatments were equally effective. One-session treatment was also, on average, £300 cheaper per person. Children, their parents or guardians, and therapists found it acceptable. The researchers recommend clinicians and NHS commissioners consider one-session treatment for children and young people with phobias, where appropriate.

This was the first trial to compare one-session treatment to multi-session CBT in a clinical setting, the researchers say. The pandemic meant CBT had to be delivered online for some children (instead of face-to-face) and some treatments were paused, delayed, or cancelled.

Date added
Created by
Sylvia Shelton
Published by
Current Awareness Service for Health