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  • Writer's pictureAndy Anderson

Anxious Children Need SPACE

Updated: Mar 13

Parenting and Child Conduct Counseling recently introduced a therapy called Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE). SPACE therapy approaches child and teen anxiety in a distinctive way, Parent Training.

Interestingly, studies have found Space therapy equal to or better to conventional treatments for childhood anxiety disorders. Ongoing research continues to find SPACE an effective therapy for anxiety as a stand-alone or in combination with other common treatments. The stand-alone feature is particularly useful when children resist treatment.

SPACE works like this. Therapists train parents to use techniques found to reduce childhood anxiety. Parents then use these techniques at home to train their child how to cope with anxiety triggers. Simply put, therapists train parents how to train their children.

At the heart of the approach, SPACE encourages parents to reduce accommodation and compliance demand responses to their child’s anxious behaviors. Accommodation responses occur when parents make allowances for children, enabling them to avoid situations that cause distress. Compliance demand responses occur when parents give an ultimatum that the child must do the anxiety triggering activity with little or no regard for the child’s emotional distress. Whether by accommodation or demand, neither response is effective. They may even cause the child’s anxiety to become worse.

Since accommodation and demand responses are unhelpful, what is a good response? SPACE therapy endorses supportive responses to anxiety induced behaviors. This therapy encourages parents to firmly insist that their child challenge their “fears” while supplying emotional support and expressing confidence that the child can do it.

Example of a Supportive Response to Test Anxiety

Julie is a ninth-grade student with test anxiety. She has a big test today and is begging to stay home. In this scenario, Jessica, Julie’s mom, insisted that Julie take the test today. Notice how Jessica was understanding and supportive about Julie’s test anxiety.

“I understand that you are nervous about the test today, Julie. I was the same way when I was in high school. I was a nervous wreck on test days too.
Last time you had a big test, I agreed to call you in sick. You felt relieved for a while until you started worrying about taking the test on the next day. We both noticed that avoiding the test made you even more nervous.
Let’s try something different this time. All I expect is that you take the test today. I am OK with whatever grade you make. We’ll count it a success if you take the test even if you are unsatisfied with your grade.
In fact, if you go to school and take the test, I’ll come home from work a little early today and we’ll go shopping for those shoes you’ve been wanting. All you need to do is take the test and we’ll go shopping. No worries about the grade. We can work on grades for next time. OK?”

How is a supportive response different than an accommodation or a demand response? If Jessica would have allowed Julie to stay home on test day, that would have been accommodation. If she had callously laid down an ultimatum that Julie had to take the test today, that would have been a demand response. Jessica was supportive rather than accommodating and insistent in place of demanding.

Making supportive responses to your child’s anxious behaviors isn’t easy. It takes time and patience to learn SPACE therapy techniques and even more time for children to become accustomed to challenging themselves to “push through” anxiety triggers. However, I am confident that you will find the journey worthwhile.

If your child has an anxiety disorder, look at SPACE therapy as either a stand-alone treatment or in combination with child therapy and/or medication. I have included resources for you at the end of the blog or contact me with any questions you may have about SPACE therapy.

I offer free consultations to interested clients and enjoy discussing this therapy with mental health colleagues and educators. So, contact me and we can set up a time convenient for us both.




Lebowitz, E. R. (n.d.). Resources. SPACE Treatment. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from

Lebowitz, E. R. (2019). Addressing parental accommodation when treating anxiety in children. Abct Clinical Practice.

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