Web-Based CBT for Childhood Anxiety: A Family-Led Approach

Period of Performance: 07/01/2013 - 06/30/2014


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Virtually Better, Inc.
Decatur, GA 30033
Principal Investigator
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Anxiety Disorders are some of the most commonly occurring psychological disorders among child and adolescent populations. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been proven to be an Evidence-Based Treatment (EBT) to treat anxiety, but there continues to be a lack of available CBT resources for families with anxious youth. Technology-based interventions, including those specifically CBT-based for child anxiety treatment, have shown great promise as being effective and efficient, but even these interventions lack wide spread dissemination and adoption by clinicians or self-help users. This Phase I SBIR is in response to a special Program Announcement designated for the development of Complex Technologies and Therapeutics Development for Mental Health Research and Practice with specific emphasis Tools and Platforms to Improve the Dissemination and Implementation of Evidence-Based Mental Health Interventions. This project will develop and evaluate an interactive home treatment program for youth with mild to moderate anxiety symptoms that can be tailored across diagnostic presentations and ages. Taking a cue from the rapid technology advancements in online and console gaming, we propose that a web-based platform will allow easier subscription to services, richer interactive capacity, fuller data monitoring and abilities for content scalability. Our program will utilize an automated format inclusive of assessment and feedback loops that tailor delivery of CBT concepts validated in the extant literature. An interactive guide will direct modules of activitiesto evaluate, treat, and monitor adherence and progress, with families personalizing creation of avatar characters, behavior plans, treatment hierarchies and peripheral technology augments (e.g., text messaging and smart phone applications). If this program is accepted by the targeted user community in this study (anxious youth and their parents), and had demonstrated efficacy, we believe this project, titled "Web-Based CBT for Childhood Anxiety: A Family-Led Approach," can broadly impact the appeal, access and affordability of CBT. Future phases of this project would focus on expanding platform components and age range, larger testing of referrals across settings (health centers, schools, pediatrician offices, family-direct), and allow for potential commercial distribution and longitudinal tracking. Once established as a marketable resource, the core software model could be adapted to other conditions reliant on learning and adherence based interventions. The promise of commercial opportunity is significant in an era in which there is an increasingly widespread access to and everyday use of computers, smart phones, and tablet technologies.