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Cognitive behavioral therapy for adolescents with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome

Krister W. Fjermestad (Frambu resource center for rare disorders, Siggerud, Norway)
Torun M. Vatne (Frambu resource center for rare disorders, Siggerud, Norway)
Helene Gjone (Women and Children’s Division, Rikshospitalet, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway)

Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities

ISSN: 2044-1282

Article publication date: 5 January 2015




22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11.2DS) is a rare genetic syndrome involving high risk of psychiatric disorders with average intellectual functioning in the lower borderline range. Due to the cognitive and social problems many adolescents with 22q11.2DS experience, adaptions may be needed to teach these adolescents cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) skills. The purpose of this paper is to assess psychosocial functioning in adolescents with 22q11.2DS and to adapt CBT with this group.


Totally twelve adolescents (M age=14.5 years, SD=1.4, range 12-17 years; 25 percent boys) with 22q11.2DS were recruited from a competence center for rare disorders. Their parents completed the Child Behavior Checklist and the Kiddie SADS screening interview. The adolescents participated in 7×45-minute CBT group sessions, comprising emotional awareness, cognitive restructuring tasks, and problem-solving skills.


Adolescents had poor parent-reported social and school functioning at onset. The most frequent disorders indicated by screening interviews were attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (92 percent), anxiety (58 percent), depression (50 percent), autism spectrum disorders (50 percent), and potential post traumatic stress disorder (50 percent).

Practical implications

The main adaptions made to CBT groups were shorter sessions, frequent breaks, and repetition of main points, limited use of written materials and items that could distract participants (e.g. balloons, papers), extensive and explicit use of turn taking, and two adult group facilitators per group.


Offers practical advice on teaching CBT skills to adolescents with 22q11.2DS, which may also be applicable to other adolescents with lower borderline intellectual functioning or intellectual disabilities.



The authors would like to thank the participating families and the Frambu resource center for rare disorders staff for their help in facilitating the groups. There are no conflicts of interest. The study was funded Frambu resource center where the study took place as part of regular practice.


Fjermestad, K.W., Vatne, T.M. and Gjone, H. (2015), "Cognitive behavioral therapy for adolescents with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome", Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 30-39.



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