Free Article Of The Week: Getting EBP Right In Schools
Anxiety is a significant problem for youth, and routinely is in the top 5 of all the school-based clinical issues that I consult with school social workers to help them address. One of the better-known evidence-based practice (EBP) programs to address anxiety in schools is the FRIENDS Program, developed by Dr. Paula Barrett. This article from our featured journal School Mental Health, written by Skryabina et al., “Child, Teacher and Parent Perceptions of the FRIENDS Classroom-Based Universal Anxiety Prevention Programme: A Qualitative Study,” offers one of the most detailed qualitative explorations yet of the program and the challenges it posed in being implemented in a English school setting with kids aged 7-11.
The authors, all working at the University of Bath (UK), were able to do interviews and focus groups with 115 kids, 20 parents, and 47 teachers to learn about what did (and didn’t) work about the program, all as part of a massive randomized-controlled trial (RCT). While the outcomes were largely positive, there were concerns about the implementation that the authors summarize below that might resonate with readers who have tried to implement an EBP in the real-world setting of their school:
“The results of this study raise important considerations for implementing empirically supported prevention pro- grammes in schools. Whilst FRIENDS, delivered by health staff, had a positive effect on child reported symptoms of anxiety, it will not be widely implemented unless it is supported and seen as important by school staff. This study has highlighted that school staff were critical of the delivery style which they thought was dry and formulaic with too much passive learning. They noted that the programme content overlapped with the current curriculum and were concerned about the additional time involved in delivering FRIENDS. Furthermore, almost half were unable to identify any tangible changes in the children’s behaviour. Given the limited number of identified benefits, concerns about delivery, overlap with current curriculum and limited time within a busy timetable it is unlikely that implementing FRIENDS will be a priority for these schools. Assessing the social validity of programmes from the perspective of different stakeholders will help to identify issues and barriers that mighty influence the adoption and sustainability of empirically supported programmes (Skrybania et al., 2016, p. 496)”