Dr. Alexandra Werntz, University of Virginia

Technology-Delivered Intervention for Youth Anxiety

As an AIM Clinical Science Fellow, Dr. Werntz will develop and evaluate a technology-delivered intervention for youth struggling with anxiety.

In Dr. Werntz’s role as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Virginia, she is working on adapting MindTrails (a brief intervention for learning how to think in new ways to reduce anxiety) for youth participating in mentoring programs.

The goal is to create a free, easy-to-access intervention for diverse youth struggling with anxious thinking. Dr. Werntz’s position is jointly hosted by the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she is working with the Center for Evidence-based Mentoring and MentorHub, to understand how mentors can provide support for youth in their use of evidence-based mental health applications. MentorHub has been adopted by several schools as well as the nation’s largest mentoring programs (Big Brothers Big Sisters, Friends of the Children, My Brother’s Keeper) and has over 70 programs waiting to onboard.

AIM funding will support: 
  1. a) Focus groups with anxious youth and mentors to refine intervention materials, taking a user-centered, iterative approach to intervention development.
  2. b) An initial open trial with 35 Big Brothers Big Sisters anxious mentee/mentor pairs to evaluate the impact of MindTrails paired with MentorHub on reducing mentee’s anxiety.

The Study:

Mentees (ages 13-17-years-old) will complete brief assessments of anxiety symptoms, anxious thinking style, and user experience with MindTrails pre- and post-treatment, as well as mid-way through the 10-week study. During the intervention, participants will complete twice-weekly, brief cognitive bias modification interventions to learn how to think more flexibly during common anxiety-provoking situations (e.g., taking a test or making new friends).

This research project directly impacts the lives of those with lived experience of anxiety by providing a free TDI within the context of their youth mentoring relationship.

“With the help of AIM Youth Mental Health, I’m thrilled to be able to combine MindTrails and MentorHub, and evaluate how we can empower youth to learn effective skills for managing their mental health.” – Dr. Alexandra Werntz