Research: BARRY and VON BAEYER

Listed in Issue 29


BARRY and VON BAEYER, Department of Psychology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada assessed the effectiveness of an abbreviated cognitive therapy group programme to treat headaches in children.



The authors conducted a randomised study with 36 children, aged 7-12 years of age, randomly assigned either to the treatment group, in which small groups of 5-8 children were taught relaxation, distraction, visualisation and stress management skills in two 90-minute sessions, or to a waiting list control group. Parent groups were seen concurrently, reviewed the children's programme and addressed parenting strategies. The waiting list control groups were treated 5 weeks later. Headache frequency, intensity, duration and five other variables, were rated by children and kept in a diary for 3 weeks prior to and 3 weeks following treatment. Parent measures were taken one prior to treatment and once at 3-month follow-up.


Children in the control group showed a significant reduction in self-rated headache frequency, while the treatment group did not show any such reduction in frequency. In all the other self-reported variables, there were no significant differences between the control and treatment conditions. Two children in each group achieved a 50% or greater reduction in the self-rating headache index. In follow-up ratings, obtained by telephone from parents following the treatment of children in both groups, showed that the children in both groups had experienced reduced intensity, frequency and duration of headaches and that 82% of the children were using the techniques taught in the programme. 14 children achieved 50% or greater reduction in the headache index based upon parent rating.


Despite the enthusiasm of the parents for the effectiveness of this programme, the results for children's self-rating do not support the use of this highly abbreviated treatment technique.


Barry J and von-Baeyer CL. Brief cognitive-behavioral group treatment for children's headache. Clin J Pain. 13(3): 215-20. Sep 1997.

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