Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewResearchpeer-review


Objective: To assess benefits and harms of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) versus no intervention or versus other interventions for pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Method: We searched for randomized clinical trials of CBT for pediatric OCD. Primary outcomes were OCD severity, serious adverse events, and level of functioning. Secondary outcomes were quality of life and adverse events. Remission from OCD was included as an exploratory outcome. We assessed risk of bias and evaluated the certainty of the evidence with the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE). Results: Nine trials (N = 645) were included comparing CBT with no intervention and 3 trials (N = 146) comparing CBT with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Compared with no intervention, CBT decreased OCD severity (mean difference [MD] = −8.51, 95% CI = −10.84 to −6.18, p < .00001, low certainty), improved level of functioning (patient-rated: standardized MD [SMD] = −0.90, 95% CI = −1.19 to −0.62, p < .00001, very low certainty; parent-rated: SMD = −0.68, 95% CI = −1.12 to −0.23, p = .003, very low certainty), had similar proportions of participants with adverse events (risk ratio = 1.06, 95% CI = 0.93−1.22, p = .39, GRADE: low certainty), and was associated with reduced risk of still having OCD (risk ratio = 0.50, 95% CI = 0.37−0.67, p < .00001, very low certainty). We had insufficient data to assess the effect of CBT versus no intervention on serious adverse events and quality of life. Compared with SSRIs, CBT led to similar decreases in OCD severity (MD = −0.75, 95% CI = −3.79 to 2.29, p = .63, GRADE: very low certainty), and was associated with similar risk of still having OCD (risk ratio = 0.85, 95% CI = 0.66−1.09, p = .20, very low certainty). We had insufficient data to assess the effect of CBT versus SSRIs on serious adverse events, level of functioning, quality of life, and adverse events. Conclusion: CBT may be more effective than no intervention and comparable to SSRIs for pediatric OCD, but we are very uncertain about the effect estimates.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)64-77
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

    Research areas

  • cognitive-behavioral therapy, obsessive-compulsive disorder, systematic review

Number of downloads are based on statistics from Google Scholar and

No data available

ID: 236721617