SPACE (Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions)

Anxiety & OCD Treatment Services' providers are trained in SPACE treatment, which stands for Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions. SPACE is a parent-based treatment program for children and adolescents with anxiety, OCD, and related problems.

The current gold standard treatment for childhood anxiety is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), in which the therapist works directly with the child or adolescent, and the parent has little to no input. This can be challenging at times, especially if a child does not recognize their own anxious patterns or if they are unwilling to participate in therapy. The SPACE program is a bit different than traditional CBT. It is designed to help children feel less anxious, but it’s the parents and caregivers that participate in treatment sessions — not the kid. SPACE is an effective approach, with research demonstrating that it is as efficacious as well-established CBT in reducing child anxiety. 

What is SPACE and who is it for?

Developed by Dr. Eli Lebowitz, director of the Program for Anxiety Disorders of the Yale Child Study Center, SPACE is an innovative, evidence-based program to help treat children with anxiety. SPACE treatment is appropriate for many of the most common anxiety issues that children and adolescents face: obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), separation anxiety, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, specific phobias, illness anxiety, panic disorder and agoraphobia, and selective mutism.

SPACE takes a systemic view, acknowledging the role of parents in helping children cope with difficult situations and in the maintenance of child anxiety. SPACE aims to modify the parents’ behavior through psychoeducation about anxiety disorders, monitoring current parental behaviors, and equipping caregivers with strategies and detailed plans designed to best support the child’s treatment. The two primary targets in SPACE involve (1) increasing supportive responses, and (2) reducing accommodation behaviors:  

  • Parents will learn to respond more supportively to their child’s anxiety. A parent conveys support by showing two things: “acceptance” — acknowledging and validating a child’s feelings — and “confidence” — conveying to a child that they will be okay despite their anxiety.​

  • Parents will also learn to decrease accommodations they’ve been making to the child’s anxiety symptoms. While accommodations may seem helpful in the short-term, research has demonstrated that parental accommodation is associated with worse symptoms in the long-term. Accommodations inadvertently maintain existing patterns of anxiety, and promote avoidance behaviors. SPACE helps parents identify their accommodations and gradually and systematically reduce them.

Who Participates?

  • This is a parent-based treatment program, where the parents or caregivers attend the treatment sessions. In most cases, the child or adolescent does not need to attend 

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