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Keywords:

  • Anxiety;
  • behavior therapy;
  • elective mutism;
  • psychotherapy;
  • selective mutism;
  • therapy

Background:  There have been several reports of successful psychosocial interventions for children with selective mutism (SM), a disorder in which a child consistently fails to speak in one or more social settings (e.g., school) despite speaking normally in other settings (e.g., home). The present literature review was undertaken in order to provide an up-to-date summary and critique of the SM treatment literature published in the past fifteen years.

Methods:  PubMed, PsycINFO, and Web of Science databases were searched to identify SM treatment studies published in peer-reviewed journals between 1990 and 2005.

Results:  A total of 23 studies were included in the present review. Of these, ten used a behavioral/cognitive behavioral approach, one used a behavioral language training approach, one used a family systems approach, five used a psychodynamic approach, and six used multimodal approaches to SM treatment.

Conclusions:  Although much of this literature is limited by methodological weaknesses, the existing research provides support for the use of behavioral and cognitive-behavioral interventions. Multimodal treatments also appear promising, but the essential components of these interventions have yet to be established. An outline of a cognitive-behavioral treatment package for a typical SM child is provided and the review concludes with suggestions for future research.