A substantial empirical base supports the use of psychotherapy to alleviate anxiety symptoms and diagnoses in children and adolescents. However, focusing only on symptom or diagnostic reduction provides an incomplete picture of clinically meaningful efficacy given that anxiety disorders in this age group are integrally associated with problems in functioning. A systematic review and meta-analysis (N studies = 40, N participants = 3094) evaluating the impacts of psychotherapy for anxiety was conducted on the following outcomes: global functioning, social functioning, academic functioning, and school attendance. Randomised controlled trials with a passive control condition, a child and/or adolescent sample (7–17 years) with a primary anxiety diagnosis, and receiving anxiety-focused psychotherapy were eligible for inclusion if they reported suitable outcome data. Results from the meta-analysis indicated that from pre- to post-treatment, psychotherapy led to significant improvements in global functioning according to clinician (d = 1.55), parent (d = 0.67), and child (d = 0.31) reports and on social functioning according to parent (d = 0.51), but not child (d = 0.31) reports. The qualitative review provided preliminary support psychotherapy’s efficacy in increasing family functioning and school attendance, but not so much in enhancing academic performance. These results indicate that psychotherapy improves daily functioning in anxious children and adolescents. The study also highlighted the limited attention paid to measures of functioning in the empirical literature on treatment of childhood anxiety.
Trial Registry: This study is registered with PROSPERO under the identification number CRD42021246565.