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Treatment of separation anxiety

Separation anxiety means that someone experiences severe anxiety about the separation from his home or people with whom they feel strongly connected. Separation anxiety occurs significantly more often in people with a mild to moderate intellectual disability combined with a visual impairment. The Department of Psychotherapy of Bartiméus and VU University Amsterdam developed Technology assisted Therapy for Separation Anxiety: TTSA.

Separation anxiety might cause depression, stress and serious behaviour problems, for example claiming or challenging behaviour. It's the most common anxiety disorder of people with intellectual and visual impairment. 

TTSA treatment

foto van smileys op iPhone app voor separatieangstTechnology assisted Therapy for Separation Anxiety (TTSA) is developed for the treatment of separation anxiety. During the intervention:

  • The iPhone app (Shakem) is used for communication between client and caregiver.
  • Clients can express their feelings and emotions, to the caregiver who at that moment is not available, with the easy to use app interface.
  • At reunion caregiver and client talk about the sent messages. 
  • Treatment is supervised by the developmental psychologist.
  • The Shakem web-application can be used during the supervision.
  • The TTSA treatment protocol is used. 

Suitable for

  • People with intellectual disability: IQ between 40 and 70.
  • Clients are physically capable of using the mobile phones touchscreen: for blind people adaptations are available.
  • iPhone telephone: the app is only available in the App Store.


  • Increase of clients confidence in his caregiver and in general. 
  • Significant decrease in feelings of anxiety.
  • Increase of clients overall feelings of wellbeing.

More information

Research results on the effect of TTSA are available. The study was done by researchers from Bartiméus and VU University Amsterdam. For more information concerning the research or on the TTSA treatment, please mail: