Assessment and Intervention Strategies for Selective Mutism: A Modular Paradigm

Saturday, April 7: 8:00 AM  - 10:00 AM 
Mezzanine Level 
Room: Wilson A 
Selective mutism (SM) is a serious anxiety disorder that impacts children's ability to speak in multiple settings. Left untreated, SM can negatively affect a child's academic and social development. Delays in treatment can lead to entrenchment of mutism and worsening prognosis. Despite the significant developmental consequences of this disorder, research has lagged behind that of many other anxiety disorders, leaving it characterized as 'difficult to treat'. Recently, research is beginning to demonstrate that early intervention can enable children to speak successfully in different contexts.

In this interdisciplinary workshop, we present a modular approach to selective mutism treatment developed by Dr. Steven Kurtz which we recently evaluated in a treatment outcome study delivered over 16 weekly sessions. Specifically, we will outline and discuss 1) parent education and coaching, 2) in-office exposure planning, 3) school engagement, and 4) community home practice. Results from the treatment outcome study will be discussed and used to illustrate principles of assessment and treatment decision making, including when to intensify treatment and/or add adjunctive medication.

This highly interactive workshop will focus on practical skills in conducting a comprehensive assessment and developing and implementing a treatment plan for SM. We will review the behavioral model of SM and behavioral treatment strategies, as well as when and how to incorporate medication into the treatment plan. Particular emphasis will be placed on generalizing brave talking skills in school and community settings as well as empowering parents as agents of change. Practical strategies for working with school personnel and parents together to create effective community treatment teams will be discussed. There will be an opportunity for discussion of cultural factors and parent and child language competence that can complication treatment.

Using demonstrations and role play, participants will see the strategies 'come to life' and have opportunities to practice specific skills in key domains including warm up time, ways to encourage speech, and the process of fading in new talking partners. Participants will be provided with case examples and have an opportunity to engage in interactive questions and answers as they think through the different aspects of treatment that need to be considered in selective mutism.

Learning Objectives

1. Participants will demonstrate an understanding of the behavioral model of selective mutism and factors that can maintain or worsen selective mutism.

2. Participants will demonstrate an understanding of how to implement a comprehensive treatment program for selective mutism
3. Paricipants will be able to describe a model for considering when to incorporate medication into the treatment plan.  


Dr. Susan Baer, MD, PhD, BC Children's Hospital
Rosalind Catchpole, PhD, British Columbia Children's Hospital
Annie Simpson, PhD, Cornerstone Child and Family Psychology Clinic

Audience Level



Children & Adolescents


Diversity - Yes


120 minutes


Selective Mutism

Treatment Approach

Exposure Therapy