Background: The majority of children referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the UK will present with mixed emotional and behavioural difficulties, but most mental health treatments are developed for single disorders. There is a need for research on treatments that are helpful for these mixed difficulties, especially for school-age children. Emotion Regulation (ER) difficulties present across a wide range of mental health disorders and mentalizing may help with regulation. The ability to mentalize one’s own experiences and those of others plays a key role in coping with stress, regulation of emotions, and the formation of stable relationships. Mentalization Based Therapy (MBT) is a well-evidenced therapy that aims to promote mentalization, which in turn increases ER capacities, leading to decreased emotional and behavioural difficulties. The aim of this study is to test the clinical- and cost-effectiveness of MBT compared to treatment as usual for school age children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. If effective, we hope this approach can become available to the growing number of children presenting to mental health services with a mix of emotional and behavioural difficulties.
Materials and methods: Children referred to CAMHS aged 6–12 with mixed mental health problems (emotional and behavioural) as primary problem can take part with their parent/carers. Children will be randomly allocated to receive either MBT or treatment as usual (TAU) within the CAMHS clinic they have been referred to. MBT will be 6–8 sessions offered fortnightly and can flexibly include different family members. TAU is likely to include CBT, parenting groups, and/or children’s social skills groups. Parent/carers and children will be asked to complete outcome assessments (questionnaires and tasks) online at the start of treatment, mid treatment (8 weeks), end of treatment (16 weeks) and at follow up (40 weeks).