Z Kinder Jugendpsychiatr Psychother. 2022 Jun 15. doi: 10.1024/1422-4917/a000883. Online ahead of print.
Objective: Highly-controlled, randomized controlled trials have provided considerable evidence for the efficacy of outpatient cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for patients with school absenteeism and anxiety disorders. However, the effectiveness of outpatient CBT under routine-care conditions for youth with school absenteeism remains unproven. Methods: This observational study used file records to analyze the changes under routine CBT in a sample of n = 49 clinically referred adolescents aged 11 to 18 years with school absenteeism and mental disorders who were being treated in a university outpatient clinic. At the start and end of treatment, we assessed the severity of school absenteeism as well as mental health problems as rated by parents and by the adolescents themselves. Results: The analysis yielded a statistically highly significant decline in school absenteeism (large effect, Cohen’s r = 0.80) and in mental health problems (small-to-large effect, Cohen’s d = 0.33 to d = 0.82). However, a substantial proportion of the sample remained in the clinical range at the end of treatment. Conclusions: These findings suggest that CBT is effective for adolescents with school absenteeism when administered under routine-care conditions, though the results must be interpreted with caution because of the lack of a control condition.