Involuntary stressful movements or sounds, called tics, can make life difficult for a child. New research finds that both group and individual therapy can be an effective method to overcome tic disorders.

In the new study, a group of Danish researchers compared the effect of different types of therapy to relieve tics. Their positive findings suggest that intervention by therapists can result in a better course of treatment for those children who experience a very difficult life with tics.

One of the researchers behind the study, Dr. Judith Becker Nissen, an associate professor at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University, said tics can be effectively treated with either group or individual therapy. “This means that many more children and young people can be offered relevant treatment, which is very welcome news for the affected families.”

The research has been published in the scientific journal European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Around 15 percent of all children have tics, and up to one percent of these children have tics that are classified as chronic. When tics continue for more than a year and include both vocal and motoric tics, the disorder is called Tourette’s syndrome.

This disorder can be debilitating for a child, Nissen said.

“Some children suffer from tics to such an extent that they must be given pain relief. They can find it difficult to concentrate, for example because they struggle to keep the tics in check so they don’t disturb their classmates, or because their blinking tics make it difficult to focus.

“In addition, a child who makes strange noises or sudden movements can suffer bullying. We therefore need to help these children get treatment, even though we know that tics often decrease as the brain matures. But the early years are so crucial for a child’s development, thus everything that may reduce tics intensity and frequency needs to be done,”  Nissen said.

According to Nissen, it is particularly important to know of the good effect of group therapy.

“Some parents are concerned that in group therapy their child will copy the other children’s tics and end up with more of them. On the contrary, the children in group therapy are given a selection of exercises that can support them in developing strategies which they and their parents can use if new tics turn up later in their lives.”

Together with her colleagues, Nissen has compiled experience and data from the work with children and parents. These experiences are now gathered in the first Danish manual. The manual is available for therapists and affected families to use.

“It has the advantage of both describing individual and group therapy and of combining multiple methods, so the children are given a broad repertoire of methods and strategies,” Nissen said.

“Previously we’ve relied on American and other guidelines, but cultural differences and experience may play a role for treatment outcome, so it is valuable that Danish children and their parents contribute to the manual.”

Source: Aarhus University/EurekAlert