Study Funded by Tourette Association of America Shows Behavior Therapy Significantly Reduces Tic Severity

Tourette Association of America funded research confirms the long-term durability of behavior therapy for tics among youth with Tourette Syndrome and other types of Tic Disorders.

The study, “Long-Term Outcomes of Behavior Therapy for Youth with Tourette Disorder,” was published in the prestigious Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) and focuses specifically on the effectiveness of Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT). The conclusion of the study supports guidelines that support current recommendations classifying CBIT as the first-line intervention for tics remediation.

One million Americans are impacted by Tourette Syndrome or a Tic Disorder and 50% are going undiagnosed. In addition to challenges around properly diagnosing and assessing the condition, the community often struggles to find accessible and effective long-term treatment.

CBIT, a form of behavior therapy funded and spearheaded by the TAA, has become the first-line treatment option for those impacted by Tourette Syndrome or Tic Disorders. It is customized to each patient and is comprised of psychoeducation, monitoring tics, functional interventions, Habit Reversal Training, relaxation training and relapse prevention. The American Academy of Neurology and various other academic and professional bodies, such as the European Society for the Treatment of Tourette Syndrome, Canadian Guidelines for the Evidence Based Treatment of Tourette Syndrome, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Practice Parameters, recommend behavior therapy as the first-line intervention.

“This study really was a decade in the making. We were fortunate to have been able to follow up with so many of the participants in the original CBIT trial and begin examining questions we often receive from individuals with tics and fellow scientists, but do not have answers informed by good data. We now have some evidence to suggest early response to CBIT may be maintained into adulthood. This highlights the continued need to make CBIT more widely available for individuals and families struggling with tics,” said Flint M. Espil, Clinical Assistant Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

80 of the 126 youth who participated in a randomized controlled trial of behavior therapy 11 years ago were recruited for the follow-up in order to characterize the long-term tic severity outcomes from childhood to adulthood and determine the influence of early successful behavioral management on the long-term course of Persistent Tic Disorders.

Tic severity decreased significantly across the sample with 40% reporting partial remission. Youth who responded to CBIT in the original trial were more likely (67%) to achieve at least partial tic remission at follow-up than those who received psychoeducation/supportive therapy alone.

The study was conducted by leading members of the TAA’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Boards in addition to prominent providers and trainers in CBIT. Contributors include Flint M. Espil, PhD, Douglas W. Woods, PhD, Matthew W. Specht, PhD, Shannon M. Bennett, PhD, John T. Walkup, MD, Emily J. Ricketts, PhD, Joseph F. McGuire, PhD, Jordan T. Stiede, MS, Jennifer S. Schild, MS, Susanna W. Chang, PhD, Alan L. Peterson, PhD, ABPP, Lawrence Scahill, PhD, Sabine Wilhelm, PhD, and John Piacentini, PhD.

“Nearly 20 years ago the Tourette Association of America heard that its members wanted viable and effective non-drug treatment options for their condition. This study shows the long-term positive impact that CBIT has on individuals and helps researchers on their way to making bigger breakthroughs. The investment our organization has made in the development, research and dissemination of CBIT is something for which we are extraordinarily proud,” said Amanda Talty, TAA President and CEO. “The TAA remains dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge that will help us understand and improve treatment of Tourette Syndrome, Tic Disorders, and associated conditions to improve quality of life for individuals impacted.”