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Anxiety Disorder Treatment Leads to NIH/NIMH Multisite RO-1 Grant

Joseph Himle

Congratulations to Principal Investigator and Curtis Center Director Joseph Himle, Ph.D. '95, and his team on their newly funded NIMH RO-1 grant, "A Multi-site Systems Intervention for Unemployed Persons with Social Anxiety."   This work began more than five years ago when investigators at the School of Social Work conducted research revealing that social anxiety disorder is the largest mental health-related impediment to moving women off of public assistance and into a job...more of an impediment than depression...and more than substance abuse.

Himle worked closely with Jewish Vocational Service in Detroit (JVS) to obtain an initial NIH/NIMH intervention development grant to design and pilot test an intervention targeting unemployed persons suffering from social anxiety disorder. Together, they successfully designed and developed a treatment targeting social anxiety in the workplace and incorporated it within a usual day of vocational services provided by JVS.

"Those with social anxiety disorder avoid job interviews, and even if they manage to land a job, they may have difficulty sustaining relationships that are often required to retain a job," Himle explained.  "The unemployment cycle becomes a downward spiral and together with JVS, we obtained our first grant to develop a unique intervention to stop that cycle because we're interested in getting people back to work...and to help them maintain that work."

The initial project involved an underserved Detroit-based study population that was 90 percent African American and a large number of participants were homeless with poor work histories and co-occurring mental health issues.

"We had excellent results with those who participated in the four-week program," Himle said.  "As the social anxiety improved, their job search activities, social anxiety, generalized anxiety and depression improved."

"Our success led to an application for a second grant to conduct even more work with social anxiety disorder and expand our work to a second site, the JVS in Los Angeles," Himle said.

The two-site grant allows increased diversity with more Latinos in Los Angeles, which is a joint study with the Department of Psychology at UCLA (Michelle Craske, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, UCLA site).  The multi-site program brings regional differences to the research, increases the total number of people receiving treatment and extends the follow-up period allowing researchers to judge the effects of the intervention over time. 

The newly funded multi-site RO-1 grant provides five years of funding for a total of 300 participants and includes the development of computer assisted modules to deliver the cognitive behavioral treatment and train those implementing the program.  

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