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Telephone-guided self-help for mental health difficulties in neurological conditions: a randomised pilot trial


Objective This study aimed to conduct a randomised pilot trial to assess the feasibility of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to investigate the effect of telephone-guided self-help for the treatment of mental health difficulties in children with neurological conditions.

Design Preliminary RCT. The primary outcome measure was the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.

Setting Neurology clinics in a national tertiary paediatric hospital.

Patients Young people attending neurology clinics who met criteria for mental health difficulties according to the Development and Wellbeing Assessment.

Interventions 12 weeks of telephone-guided self-help based on a modular approach to psychological therapy for children delivered to children and/or their parents (n=17; eight males; mean age 12.04 years, SD=3.34) or a waiting list for telephone-guided self-help with no additional intervention over 12 weeks (n=17; nine males; mean age 10.53 years, SD=3.14).

Results 124 participants completed the DAWBA, and 34 children and young people were entered into the trial. 65% of those randomised to the intervention arm completed the full intervention, and the intervention was acceptable to those completing it. However, there were significant problems related to lack of data completion (38% data loss for primary outcome measure), choice of control comparator and outcome measures. Due to significant loss of data at follow-up, the effect size findings are considered unreliable.

Conclusions Further feasibility work should be conducted to improve data completeness before progression to a definitive trial of guided self-help for mental health problems in children with neurological conditions can be recommended.

Trial registration number ISRCTN21184717.

  • neurology
  • autism
  • psychology
  • child psychiatry
  • general paediatrics

Data availability statement

Data are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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