Preventing and treating anxiety in children and youth - Austin Resilience Development Inc.
FRIENDS training partner
Canada (except BC) and the United States
  • FUN FRIENDS
    for 4 to 7 year old children

  • FRIENDS for Life
    for 8 to 11 year olds

  • MY FRIENDS Youth
    for 12 to 16 year olds

Preventing and treating anxiety in children and youth

With over 25 years of research, the FRIENDS programs, endorsed by the World Health Organisation and included in SAMSHA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, are proven effective at building resilience and preventing/treating anxiety and depression in individuals and families of all ages. Specifically, the programs employ a positive psychology approach, focused on building strengths and promoting a healthy lifestyle (rather than on deficits and problems).

The FRIENDS Programs are a suite of group-based programs that give participants the tools to overcome life challenges, stay calm, and increase their confidence and happiness. FRIENDS uses a holistic approach to prevent the development of anxiety in children and youth and increase social and emotional competence, well-being and emotional resilience. Children and youth completing FRIENDS show both reductions in anxiety and symptomology as well as increases in protective factors. The skills learned by participants are transferable across numerous situations they encounter through life.

Austin Resilience Development provides training in variations of the FRIENDS programs tailored to suit different age groups: FUN FRIENDS for young children 4 to 7 years, FRIENDS for Life for children 9 to 12 years, MY FRIENDS Youth for adolescents 13 to 16 years. Each FRIENDS program gives participants the tools to overcome these age-related challenges, to maintain physical and mental wellbeing, and most importantly achieve happiness.

FRIENDS can be delivered as a school based universal anxiety prevention and resiliency building program by trained teachers or support services staff in the classroom or as an early intervention program to groups of children or youth by educational counselling, health, or social service professionals in clinic/community settings. Certification through attendance at a FRIENDS training is required prior to running any of the programs or purchasing the FRIENDS materials.

Since its development in the early 1990s, the FRIENDS programs have been delivered to an estimated 800,000 children and adolescents worldwide. FRIENDS is in use in schools and clinics in the following countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States

Download FRIENDS Program Brochure English
Download FRIENDS Program Brochure French

Anxiety Disorders in Children and Youth

Today, children and youth are more likely to develop a mental health disorder than 20 years ago and anxiety disorders are the most common form. Anxiety significantly interferes with a child's ability to handle a wide variety of everyday activities, including interpersonal relationships, social competence, peer relations and school adjustment. If left untreated, childhood anxiety may develop over the years into a chronic adult anxiety disorder/s or, in some cases, clinical depression that may lead to suicidal thoughts.

It is therefore crucial that anxiety prevention begins early, and that mental health and education professionals are equipped with the resources to help children and their families develop effective strategies to deal with worry, stress and change.

FRIENDS is a world leading evidence-based early intervention and prevention program designed to do just that. The FRIENDS program is both effective and sustainable, and its benefits carry forward for many years. Used in schools, FRIENDS avoids continual drains on limited funds and resources and actively encourages sound educational values and learning principles.

Up to 80% of children showing signs of an anxiety disorder no longer display that disorder after completing the program and this effect has been confirmed up to 6 years later. Children who participate in the program and are not symptomatic also benefit and display higher rates of self-esteem, lower rates of worry, and a better ability to solve their own problems.

A Research Report

In the report, Preventing and Treating Anxiety Disorders in Children and Youth (June 2002) prepared by The Children's Mental Health Policy Research Program at the University of British Columbia, it stated,

"Research suggests that there is good evidence to support new public policy investments in both preventing and treating anxiety disorders in children. Prevention is preferable given the high distress and impairment associated with anxiety disorders. Our review of the literature revealed a cognitive-behavioural program, FRIENDS, that appears to be efficacious across the entire spectrum, as a universal prevention program, as a targeted prevention program and as a treatment."

View Report

From the World Health Organization

"A promising prevention of anxiety programme for children from 7 to 16 years of age is the FRIENDS programme, widely used in schools, health centres and hospitals. Based on an effective treatment programme for anxiety disorders, it has been translated into a prevention format and is available in universal, selective and indicated prevention versions."

Prevention of Mental Disorders: Effective Interventions and Policy Options, pp. 42-43, WHO, 2004.
Download PDF

SAMSHA National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices

The National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) is a searchable online database of mental health and substance abuse interventions. The purpose of NREPP is to help the public learn more about available evidence-based programs and practices and determine which of these may best meet their needs. NREPP is one way that SAMHSA is working to improve access to information on evaluated interventions and reduce the lag time between the creation of scientific knowledge and its practical application in the field.

The FRIENDS programs for children and youth have been added to the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices
Download PDF