Anchors Away: A Family-Focused CBT Skills App (Anchors App)

Period of Performance: 09/12/2017 - 08/31/2018


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

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


PROJECT ABSTRACT Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychological disorders with prevalent onset in early to mid- childhood. Risk factors for childhood anxiety include behavioral inhibition, parental negative affect and parenting stress, along with parental anxiety levels, which appear to moderate both symptom onset and improvement. While cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the first-line treatment for pediatric anxiety, there are many barriers to accessing CBT for families with anxious children and parent anxiety likely amplifies these barriers. Interventions leveraging technology, including CBT-based treatments for child anxiety, have been demonstrated to be effective and efficient, yet these interventions lack widespread dissemination. Anchors Away: A Family-Focused CBT Skills App (Anchors App) is a Phase II SBIR proposal to continue the development of a parent-driven CBT skills program for children experiencing anxiety symptoms that addresses many of these access barriers and will be marketed directly to families. Our Phase I SBIR project was successful in creating an interactive, web-based CBT skills program for children with mild anxiety. Acceptability and feasibility results showed parents needed more resources to make them feel confident coaching and prompting their child and modeling of proactive coping behaviors and skills rehearsal. Also, the families indicated children who were younger and had less severe anxiety might get more benefit from the program and a mobile format would assist in the ecological validity of the program. Thus, in Phase II, we will develop Anchors App, a mobile version of the program with expanded parent content, to target younger children, ages 6 to 11, with sub-clinical to mild anxiety with the goal of preventing onset or reducing severity of anxiety disorders. To empirically validate this technology and its content, we will conduct a professional panel evaluation of the program and complete clinical efficacy testing with a randomized controlled trial (RCT). Anchors App will broadly impact the appeal and affordability of accessing CBT skill concepts and has the potential to dramatically change the landscape of mental health care by providing a clinically effective tool direct to parents for early outreach, rapid dissemination, and preventive care.