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Professor Paul Stallard
Professor Paul Stallard
Photo by nic Delves-Broughton

Press Release - 13 June 2007

Pioneer in cutting children's anxiety levels to meet Prime Minister

An expert in child psychology who has pioneered the use of cognitive behaviour therapy to improve the mental health of thousands of school children in the Bath area has been invited to meet Tony and Cherie Blair.

Professor Paul Stallard, of the University of Bath and Consultant Clinical Psychologist with the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, will meet the Prime Minister and his wife this evening (Wednesday June 13) at Lancaster House in London, in recognition of his significant contribution to public services

A major initiative pioneered by Professor Stallard is the FRIENDS programme which has now helped 2,500 children in 30 schools in Bath, Keynsham and Radstock over the last three years.

The 10-session programme involves school nurses using cognitive behavioural therapy techniques with whole classes of children to boost their self-esteem and reduce anxiety and depression.

The programme uses games, small group discussion, role-playing and problem-solving to get children to think about what makes them anxious and how they can tackle the thoughts that worry them.

Professor Stallard pioneered the Friends scheme in Britain after hearing of its success in Australia.

A recent local study has shown that anxiety levels are lower and self-esteem is higher by the end of FRIENDS and that these improvements are still there one year after the end of the programme. Children with the highest levels of anxiety benefit, with 60 per cent successfully bringing their anxiety levels down to normal by the end of the programme.

The Friends programme is now being rolled out in schools in Scotland, Newcastle, Wrexham, Bristol and other cities across the UK and has won five national awards for excellence in the NHS.

“This programme has given children practical skills to understand and manage their emotions and to identify and challenge their worrying thoughts," said Professor Stallard, who is Professor of Child and Family Mental Health in the University’s School for Health and a practising clinical child psychologist.

“We feel it’s been very successful and it’s this success that has been picked up by central government and has led to the invitation to meet the Prime Minister.

“It’s gratifying that the work that many people have put in to the FRIENDS programme is paying off and that we are able to make a real difference to the lives of so many children.”

Professor Stallard is also the author of the practical and theoretical manual Think Good – Feel Good, which was published in 2002 and has won a “highly commended” award from the British Medical Association. The book, now widely in use in the NHS, sets out best practice for carrying out cognitive behavioural therapy with children.

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