Selective Mutism in Children: A Literature Review of Cognitive Behavioural and Integrative Psychotherapeutic Schemes

Proceedings of ‏The 3rd International Conference on Advanced Research in Social Sciences

Year: 2021


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Selective Mutism in Children: A Literature Review of Cognitive Behavioural and Integrative Psychotherapeutic Schemes

Marios Dimitrios Chatzinikolaou, Dr. Triantafyllia Iliopoulou



Selective mutism is a rare childhood psychiatric condition, repositioned under the umbrella of anxiety disorders in the DSM-5. The minor proportion of affected children are physically unable to elicit speech across unfamiliar social settings. The disorder’s origin/nature are largely unspecified, though comorbidity development, and long-term academic, social, and emotional adversities are evident. Optimal treatment relies on limited published research papers placing emphasis on cognitive behavioural and integrative interventions. The present review aimed at evaluating differences amongst these psychosocial configurations regarding their effectiveness and suitability for treating selective mutism in children. PubMed, Science Direct, APA PsycNet, and ERIC databases were thoroughly searched in March 2020 for identification of research articles published in peer-reviewed journals throughout the previous decade. Six research articles were retrieved, each assessing cognitive behavioural and integrative modalities. Overall, cognitive behavioural approaches appropriately address multiple levels of children’s developmental needs while reinforcing their cognitive-behavioural competences via means of cognitive restructuring and behavioural modification. Still, several omissions such as post-treatment enduring symptoms or improper focus upon anxiety-related aspects of children’s psychosocial functionality were discernible. Conversely, integrative approaches offer solid foundations for holistic and personalised treatment plans while consistently involving important stakeholders (parents/school). Yet, their limited exploration has not enabled for their absolute effectiveness, and their predominantly manualised natured hardly stipulates for a uniform approach, hindering successful clinical practice. Therefore, the clinical applications of both psychotherapeutic schemes display major differences instead of complementing each other. Future research should conduct further needs analyses, utilise technology sensibly, and consider cultural variations.

Keywords: clinical psychology; developmental needs; quality of life; social anxiety; socioemotional and linguistic skills.