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NICE makes conditional recommendations for digital CBT tools for children and young people

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has conditionally recommended using digital cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) tools for children and young people with mild to moderate anxiety symptoms.

The five self-guided products offer the use of games, videos and quizzes based on CBT principles and aim to help children and young people learn techniques and tools to understand and manage their symptoms of anxiety and depression with the support of mental health practitioners.

The independent NICE committee found some evidence that suggests that using self-guided CBT technology may overall improve symptoms of mental health, but that more evidence is needed to fully inform a NICE recommendation before full integration into NHS services.

The CBT digital therapies will be delivered via smartphone apps, tablets or computers, with NICE noting that they can offer “flexible access, greater privacy, increased convenience, and increased capacity and support for face-to-face CBT”.

It is hoped that this form of CBT will be more appealing and useful for children and young people who are recognised as regular users of digital technology.

The five conditionally recommended technologies are:

  • Lumi Nova from BfB Labs, a role-playing game that combines evidence-based content and psychoeducational content for children and young people between seven and 12.
  • Space from anxiety for teens, Space from low mood for teens and Space from low mood and anxiety for teens from SilverCloud, an internet-based intervention for 15-18 year olds structured around the principles of CBT to help users understand and notice feelings, face fears and identify challenging thoughts.
  • Online support and intervention for child anxiety (OSI), parent-led and therapist supported psychological intervention for children aged five to 12, consisting of three components: a parents’ website, a clinician case management website and an optional game all for the children.
  • Online social anxiety cognitive therapy for adolescents (OSCA), an internet programme of cognitive therapy for social anxiety in 14-18 year olds, with users receiving a core set of modules to work through with the support of a therapist.
  • ThinkNinja CBT Bytesize from Healios, an app with psychoeducational and CBT-based content with wrap-around clinician support for children and young people over 11 anxiety or low mood.

Mark Chapman, Interim Director of Medical Technology at NICE, said: “There is an increased need for child and young people’s mental health services that has become even greater due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Technologies like these, could help children and young people get wider access to support.

“We understand that for some children and young people, technologies will not replace face-to-face interventions. What is promising about all the technologies we have conditionally recommended today is the way they bring together digital interventions with clinical support.

“By driving innovations like these into the hands of clinicians we can improve care for patients and help the service recover following the pandemic.”