Behavior therapy for children with tourette disorder: A randomized controlled trial

John Piacentini*, Douglas W. Woods, Lawrence Scahill, Sabine Wilhelm, Alan L. Peterson, Susanna Chang, Golda S. Ginsburg, Thilo Deckersbach, James Dziura, Sue Levi-Pearl, John T. Walkup

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

505 Scopus citations


Context: Tourette disorder is a chronic and typically impairing childhood-onset neurologic condition. Antipsychotic medications, the first-line treatments for moderate to severe tics, are often associated with adverse effects. Behavioral interventions, although promising, have not been evaluated in large-scale controlled trials. Objective: To determine the efficacy of a comprehensive behavioral intervention for reducing tic severity in children and adolescents. Design, Setting, and Participants: Randomized, observer-blind, controlled trial of 126 children recruited from December 2004 through May 2007 and aged 9 through 17 years, with impairing Tourette or chronic tic disorder as a primary diagnosis, randomly assigned to 8 sessions during 10 weeks of behavior therapy (n=61) or a control treatment consisting of supportive therapy and education (n=65). Responders received 3 monthly booster treatment sessions and were reassessed at 3 and 6 months following treatment. Intervention: Comprehensive behavioral intervention. Main Outcome Measures: Yale Global Tic Severity Scale (range 0-50, score >15 indicating clinically significant tics) and Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement Scale (range 1 [very much improved] to 8 [very much worse]). Results: Behavioral intervention led to a significantly greater decrease on the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale (24.7 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 23.1-26.3] to 17.1 [95% CI, 15.1-19.1]) from baseline to end point compared with the control treatment (24.6 [95% CI, 23.2-26.0] to 21.1 [95% CI, 19.2-23.0]) (P<.001; difference between groups, 4.1; 95% CI, 2.0-6.2) (effect size=0.68). Significantly more children receiving behavioral intervention compared with those in the control group were rated as being very much improved or much improved on the Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement scale (52.5% vs 18.5%, respectively; P<.001; number needed to treat=3). Attrition was low (12/126, or 9.5%); tic worsening was reported by 4% of children (5/126). Treatment gains were durable, with 87% of available responders to behavior therapy exhibiting continued benefit 6 months following treatment. Conclusion: A comprehensive behavioral intervention, compared with supportive therapy and education, resulted in greater improvement in symptom severity among children with Tourette and chronic tic disorder. Trial Registration: Identifier: NCT00218777.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1929-1937
Number of pages9
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 19 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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