Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy in School Refusal (RSA-Coll)

  • End date
    Jul 22, 2025
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    University Hospital, Montpellier
Updated on 1 May 2022


Anxious school refusal (ASR) is a common disorder which concerns more and more adolescents who are at worse completely absent from school. A specific ambulatory cognitive and behavioral therapy (CBT) program has been established to gradually reintegrate the child back into the school environment with a multidisciplinary team. Alongside school reintegration assessment, the child's overall ability to function and anxiety levels will be measured before and after the program with additional assessments made after a further 6 and 12 months have elapsed.


ASR concerns children and adolescents who feel anxiety about going to school. Some are totally absent, some just have difficulty remaining in school for the entire day, or go to school following behavioral problems such as morning tantrums or psychosomatic complaints. Anxiety disorders are the main diagnostic underlying this behavioral problem, with one or many anxiety disorders associated (i.e. separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder or specific phobia). ASR causes much distress to the child, the parents, and the school personnel and interferes with social and educational development. Children with severe or chronic school refusal appear to have a long-term risk of adult mental health issues (e.g. anxiety, depression). Studies about ASR are few, and nonexistent in France. ASR occurs in approximately 1% of all school-aged children, and 5% of all clinic-referred children, is equally common in both boys and girls but more frequent in adolescents. Recommendations for anxiety disorder treatment in youth is psychotherapy. CBT, especially exposure-based, is the intervention that is supported by numerous, randomized, controlled trials in this area. But concerning ASR, there are few studies.

A specific ambulatory therapeutic CBT program for totally absent from school adolescents is established within the children and adolescent psychiatric unit in the University Hospital of Montpellier, France. The unit has implemented CBT techniques to gradually reintegrate the child back into the school environment. This program will be implemented in 3 other child and adolescent psychiatry centers (Marseille, Béziers and Nîmes).

The main objective of this study is to evaluate the efficiency of a CBT program on the return back to school.

Secondary objectives are:

  1. To evaluate the feasibility in implantation of this program
  2. To describe the characteristics of adolescents
  3. To assess the initial severity of mental disorders and the evolution of these disorders
  4. To describe the evolution of patient anxiety
  5. To describe the evolution of the overall functioning
  6. To evaluate the efficiency on the return back to school at 6 and 12 month after intervention.

Condition Child Psychiatry, Adolescent, Anxious School Refusal, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Treatment cognitive and behavioral therapy (CBT)
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04559633
SponsorUniversity Hospital, Montpellier
Last Modified on1 May 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Adolescents between 10 and 16 years old registered in French college (6è to 3è)
Anxious school refusal based on Berg's criteria
Completely dropped out from school (>5 consecutive days of school nonattendance, absenteeism < 12 months)
Anxiety disorder as a principal diagnosis (DSM 5)(MINI -S KID)
Adolescents want to return to school
Signed consent by parents and adolescents

Exclusion Criteria

Intellectual disabilities
Autism spectrum disorder
Learning disabilities that causes emotional trouble and being the primary cause of teenagers dropping out of school
Conduct disorder (DSM 5)
Ongoing psychotherapeutic care that the parents or the adolescent would not wish to suspend
Participation in other ongoing research
Patient not benefiting from a social security scheme
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