Nurses Trained to use Cognitive Therapy with Children in Low-Income Communities

In a recent Philadelphia area pilot program, thirteen Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) were trained by the Beck Institute to use Cognitive Therapy techniques to treat mental and behavioral health problems of children and adolescents between the ages of 7 and 18. The APNs were the children’s primary care providers in low-income populations, primary care providers are sometimes the only point of access for mental health care.

For this program, APNs were trained by Dr. Christine Reilly, a psychologist with expertise in Cognitive Therapy, and a nurse herself. The nurses participated in workshops, group supervision conference calls, and individual supervision sessions as needed, during the year-long program. The population served included children and adolescents from the Philadelphia region who presented with a range of problems, including depression, anxiety, behavioral problems, teen pregnancy, obesity, and substance abuse. The pilot program showed that nurses improved their understanding of the Cognitive Therapy model and CT techniques (developed by Aaron T. Beck, M.D. in the 1960s). Patients demonstrated improved outcomes, as assessed using the Beck Youth Inventories at the start and end of the program. Moreover, the nurses saw benefits of the CT training program in other aspects of their practice, including applying CT techniques to patients in other age groups, and improving the nurse/patient relationship.

This pilot program indicates that training nurses in Cognitive Therapy is a practical, feasible way to improve mental health care and patient outcomes among children and adolescents. The program was conducted by the National Nursing Centers Consortium, in partnership with the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, through a generous grant from the van Ameringen Foundation.