Effectiveness of emotion focused skills training for parents: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial in specialist mental health care

Linda Severinsen*, Jan Reidar Stiegler, Helene Amundsen Nissen-Lie, Ben Shahar, Rune Zahl-Olsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Emotion-Focused Skills Training (EFST) is a newly developed manualized skill training program for parents to strengthen emotional bonds between parents and children and improve mental health outcomes in children. Results from several preliminary trials indicate that EFST can be quite effective, but more rigorous methods are needed to affirm the evidence of the program. The primary objective of this study is to compare the effectiveness of EFST to treatment as usual (TAU) in a Norwegian outpatient clinic for child and adolescent mental health. Additionally, the study will examine the basic theoretical assumption underlying EFST that increased parental emotional functioning predicts a decline in children’s mental health symptoms. Method : 120 patients will be randomly assigned to either EFST or TAU. The main outcome measure is the semi-structured diagnostic interview Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia, present and lifetime version (K-SADS-PL) scored by trained assessors administered at pretreatment and repeated after 3 months. The secondary outcome measure is the DSM-IV version of the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) administered at pretreatment as well as 3, 6, and 12 months after the intervention. To examine the efficacy question, effect sizes and reliable change for each of the treatment arms will be assessed as well as symptom differences between the conditions. To examine the second aim of the study, we will examine (1) how parents relate to emotions in their children assessed by the Emotion-Related Parenting Styles (ERPS), (2) the parents’ emotion regulation capacity assessed by the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale, short-form (DERS-SF), and (3) parents’ sense of self-efficacy and the strength of their relationship with the child will be assessed by the relationship with child scale (RWC) of the systemic inventory of change. Discussion: This study will provide insights into the effectiveness of EFST in improving children’s mental health and the mechanisms of change responsible for the program’s effectiveness. Impotently, this study may provide information regarding whether children’s mental health issues can be alleviated through therapeutic work provided to the parents alone. Trial registration: Clinical trials.gov Identifier: NCT04885036. First Posted on May 13, 2021. Trial status: In recruitment.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number453
Pages (from-to)453
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 7 Jul 2022

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  • Children and adolescent
  • Emotion-focused skills training
  • Mental health care
  • Parents


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