The Implementation of a Rational-Emotive Educational Intervention for Anxiety in a 3rd Grade Classroom: An Analysis of Relevant Procedural and Developmental Constraints

Article excerpt

Abstract

We tested the efficiency of a rational-emotive behavioral intervention to reduce the level of anxiety (emotional and behavioral) and remedy the irrational thinking in children (ages 9-10). The participants were 63 schoolchildren (3 classes), boys and girls. They were initially evaluated with the Spence Anxiety Scale (for the general and specific anxiety level) and the CASI questionnaire (for the level of irrational beliefs). Their parents completed the Spence Anxiety Scale (parent version). There were 3 groups (classes): rational-emotive behavioral education (REBE), sham intervention (a Placebo type group), no intervention. The intervention lasted for 20 sessions and we assessed the level of irrational beliefs (CASI) and the general and specific anxiety (Spence Anxiety Scale) before and after the intervention. Results did not show a significant improvement of the REBE group compared to the others, neither in measures of anxiety, nor in those of irrationality. The level of REBE specific knowledge (tested with a knowledge questionnaire) after the intervention was significantly higher in the REBE group than in the other two groups. Parents' evaluations differed from children's own evaluations: they tended to overlook the existence or frequency of anxiety symptoms in their children. Possible implications and explanations are discussed. Implications envisage the efficiency of REBE in reducing the anxiety and irrational thinking of school-children and possible problems regarding its applications in the classroom.

Keywords: anxiety, children, rational-emotive behavioral education, irrational beliefs

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

Growing up is turning out to be increasingly hard. In a world expanding its complexity in an amazing rhythm, lots of children find themselves having to deal with "adult" problems, such as socio-economic problems, abuse, neglect, relational problems. Their developmental equipment (their level of cognitive, emotional and social development) is not sufficiently advanced to keep up with the racing complexity and difficulty of their everyday world (Vernon, 2004). It has become clear that we need to provide children with instruments that would supplement and sometimes compensate the abilities they have due to their developmental paths (typical or atypical), in order to ensure their efficient adaptation to this complexity. These instruments can be regarded as skills (emotional, cognitive) that children might acquire from an educational intervention.

Rational-emotive and behavioral education: general principles and empirical data for anxiety problems in children

It is generally accepted that the prevention of problems is an easier task to tackle than the intervention in cases where the problems have already set in. In other words, we don't have to and should not wait for the onset of clinical or subclinical psychological problems (anxiety) to intervene. Rather we should teach children the abilities they need to attenuate the risk of developing these problems.

The present paper is focalized on such an intervention, namely rationalemotive and behavioral education (REBE), designed to provide children with an equipment of abilities for emotional and cognitive regulation. This refers to a rational, less distorted way of thinking instead of the irrational one that leads to dysfunctional negative emotions, which in their turn can lead to psychological conditions, such as anxiety or depression. REBE endorses the principles of rational-emotive behavior therapy (REBT), initiated by Albert Ellis at the middle of the last century, and from which it was derived. These principles can be synthesized as the ABC cognitive model (for a more detailed description of these principles and the ABC model, see David, 2006). Briefly, the ABC model states that it's not the event itself that causes our emotional states, but the interpretations we form regarding event. In the model, "A" refers to the activating event (internal and external stimuli). …