Clinical and cost-effectiveness of one-session treatment (OST) versus multisession cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for specific phobias in children: Protocol for a non-inferiority randomised controlled trial


INTRODUCTION: Specific phobias (intense, enduring fears of an object or situation that lead to avoidance and severe distress) are highly prevalent among children and young people. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a well-established, effective intervention, but it can be time consuming and costly because it is routinely delivered over multiple sessions during several months. Alternative methods of treating severe and debilitating phobias in children are needed, like one-session treatment (OST), to reduce time and cost, and to prevent therapeutic drift and help children recover quickly. Our study explores whether (1) outcomes with OST are ‘no worse’ than outcomes with multisession CBT, (2) OST is acceptable to children, their parents and the practitioners who use it and (3) OST offers good value for money to the National Health Service (NHS) and to society.

METHOD: A pragmatic, non-inferiority, randomised controlled trial will compare OST with multisession CBT-based therapy on their clinical and cost-effectiveness. The primary clinical outcome is a standardised behavioural task of approaching the feared stimulus at 6 months postrandomisation. The outcomes for the within-trial cost-effectiveness analysis are quality-adjusted life years based on EQ-5D-Y, and individual-level costs based of the intervention and use of health and social service care. A nested qualitative evaluation will explore children’s, parents’ and practitioners’ perceptions and experiences of OST. A total of 286 children, 7-16 years old, with DSM-IV diagnoses of specific phobia will be recruited via gatekeepers in the NHS, schools and voluntary youth services, and via public adverts.

ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: The trial received ethical approval from North East and York Research Ethics Committee (Reference: 17/NE/0012). Dissemination plans include publications in peer-reviewed journals, presentations in relevant research conferences, local research symposia and seminars for children and their families, and for professionals and service managers.


BMJ Open 2018; 8(8):e025031