Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy May Help Youth With Anxiety Disorders

Mom and daughter teenager practicing yoga in the park. Yoga at sunset, back view
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may be an effective treatment for youth with anxiety disorders who have at least one parent with bipolar disorder.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children (MBCT-C) may be effective for improving the overall clinical severity of anxiety disorders among youth at risk for bipolar disorder, according to study data published in Early Intervention in Psychiatry.

Investigators conducted a waitlist-controlled pilot study of youth (age 9 to 18 years) with anxiety disorders who had at least one parent with bipolar disorder. All patients received 12 consecutive weekly sessions of MBCT-C, while a smaller subset also participated in a prior psychoeducation waitlist control period. Patients in the waitlist control period received educational materials 12 weeks prior to the initiation of MBCT-C. During the waitlist period, patients completed self-rated symptom scales at baseline and weeks 4, 8, and 12; patients completed these same measures weekly during the MBCT-C treatment phase. Clinician-rated scales were administered at the same time points, including the Pediatric Anxiety Rating Scale and the Clinical Global Impression Scale.

Related Articles

A total of 24 youth were enrolled in the study (mean age, 13.6 years; 75% girls; 79% white), of whom 19 were assigned to the waitlist control period (mean age, 13.8 years; 68% girls; 84% white). Significantly greater improvements in overall clinical severity per the Clinical Global Impression Scale were observed during the MBCT-C period compared with the waitlist period (P =.05). Improvements in clinician-rated anxiety (P =.01) and child-rated trait anxiety (P <.01) were observed during the MBCT-C period, although between-period changes were not significant. Emotion regulation and mindfulness were not found to improve from the waitlist to the treatment period. Increases in mindfulness were associated with improvements in child-rated state (P =.04), trait anxiety (P <.01), and emotion regulation (P =.03) in the MBCT-C period, although not the waitlist period.

These data suggest that MBCT-C has positive effects on the overall clinical presentation of youth with anxiety disorders, although not more specific measures of anxiety and emotion regulation. Further research in a larger cohort is necessary to expand on these findings and identify the most effective means of treating anxiety among youth at risk for bipolar disorder.


Cotton S, Kraemer KM, Sears RW, et al. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children and adolescents with anxiety disorders at-risk for bipolar disorder: a psychoeducation waitlist controlled pilot trial [published online July 2, 2019]. Early Interv Psychiatry. doi:10.1111/eip.12848