Testing Robustness of Child STEPs Effects with Children and Adolescents: A Randomized Controlled Effectiveness Trial

John R. Weisz, Sarah Kate Bearman, Ana M. Ugueto, Jenny A. Herren, Spencer C. Evans, Daniel M. Cheron, Alisha R. Alleyne, Adam S. Weissman, J. Lindsey Tweed, Amie A. Pollack, David A. Langer, Michael A. Southam-Gerow, Karen C. Wells, Amanda Jensen-Doss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


A critical task in psychotherapy research is identifying the conditions within which treatment benefits can be replicated and outside of which those benefits are reduced. We tested the robustness of beneficial effects found in two previous trials of the modular Child STEPs treatment program for youth anxiety, depression, trauma, and conduct problems. We conducted a randomized trial, with two significant methodological changes from previous trials: (a) shifting from cluster- to person-level randomization, and (b) shifting from individual to more clinically feasible group-based consultation with STEPs therapists. Fifty community clinicians from multiple outpatient clinics were randomly assigned to receive training and consultation in STEPs (n = 25) or to provide usual care (UC; n = 25). There were 156 referred youths—ages 6–16 (M = 10.52, SD = 2.53); 48.1% male; 79.5% Caucasian, 12.8% multiracial, 4.5% Black, 1.9% Latino, 1.3% Other—who were randomized to STEPs (n = 77) or UC (n = 79). Following previous STEPs trials, outcome measures included parent- and youth-reported internalizing, externalizing, total, and idiographic top problems, with repeated measures collected weekly during treatment and longer term over 2 years. Participants in both groups showed statistically significant improvement on all measures, leading to clinically meaningful problem reductions. However, in contrast to previous trials, STEPs was not superior to UC on any measure. As with virtually all treatments, the benefits of STEPs may depend on the conditions—for example, of study design and implementation support—in which it is tested. Identifying those conditions may help guide appropriate use of STEPs, and other treatments, in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)883-896
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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