Efficacy of emotion-focused parenting programs for children's internalizing and externalizing symptoms : a randomized clinical study

Ansar, Nadia and Nissen Lie, Helene A. and Zahl-Olsen, Rune and Bertelsen, Thomas B. and Elliott, Robert and Stiegler, Jan Reidar (2022) Efficacy of emotion-focused parenting programs for children's internalizing and externalizing symptoms : a randomized clinical study. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 51 (6). pp. 923-939. ISSN 1537-4424 (https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2022.2079130)

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Objective Emotion-Focused Skills Training (EFST) is a 12-week parental program based on Emotion-Focused Therapy, developed to improve children and adolescents' mental health problems. Methods In a randomized clinical dismantling study, including parents of 236 children and adolescents (ages 6–13, Mage 8.9, 60.6% boys, 95.8% Caucasian) with externalizing and/or internalizing problems within clinical range, we examined the efficacy of two versions of EFST: one experiential condition (n = 120) involving emotionally evocative techniques and two-chair interventions, and one psychoeducational only condition (n = 116) involving didactic teaching of emotion skills. Both groups received a 2-day group training and 6 hours of individual supervision. Outcomes were parent- and teacher-reported symptoms at baseline, posttreatment, and 4-, 8-, and 12-month follow-up. Analyses were conducted using multilevel growth curve modeling and Bayesian post hoc analysis. Results EFST showed efficacy in reducing parent-reported externalizing (b = −1.72, p < .001, d = 1.0) and internalizing (b = −1.71, p < .001, d = 0.9) symptoms, and teacher-reported externalizing (b = −.96, p < .001, d = 0.4), but not internalizing (b = −.13, p > .05, d = 0.2) symptoms. Multilevel analyses showed nonsignificant differences between conditions (all p's > .05), although a Bayesian longitudinal sensitivity analysis indicated a better outcome for the experiential condition. Conclusion EFST showed efficacy in symptom reduction for children and adolescents with internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Outcomes were maintained over 12 months for both conditions, supporting EFST as a transdiagnostic parental approach for early intervention.


Ansar, Nadia, Nissen Lie, Helene A., Zahl-Olsen, Rune, Bertelsen, Thomas B., Elliott, Robert ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3527-3397 and Stiegler, Jan Reidar;