CBT is a type of psychotherapy that has been studied and proven effective for decades. Children with anxiety, including intense fears/phobias, or mood challenges such as depression can benefit from CBT. There are some programs that have been specifically developed for youth with anxiety, depression, anger, and youth that may have overlapping symptoms of anxiety, depression, or trauma-related symptoms.
CBT involves a combination of cognitive therapy and behavior therapy. The cognitive component is based on cognitive research that thoughts can influence feelings and behaviors. The behavioral component is based on research that our behaviors, which includes our thoughts, can influence our feelings.
What Happens in CBT?
CBT involves direct instruction about feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Generally speaking, this type of therapy requires metacognition – “thinking about thinking.” Children can learn how to identify triggers for unpleasant feelings and the thoughts and behaviors that are related to the trigger. Children can also learn to identify and challenge their own thoughts and engage in adaptive coping strategies such as deep breathing, positive self-talk, or distraction to reduce the impact of unpleasant situations. For example, instead of a child thinking (or saying), “I am afraid of shots” they can be taught to modify their self-talk to, “What is it about shots that makes me scared?” and use specific calming strategies to ease their fears.
A trained child therapist will use direct instruction, modeling, role-play, interactive activities/games, stories, pictures, and videos to teach the cognitive and behavioral concepts. The therapist may also use rewards and involve parents to motivate the child to practice the skills they have learned. Ideally, the children will learn how to reward themselves for engaging in positive coping strategies.
Who Participates in CBT?
Individual CBT programs are likely to be most successful with children who have a developmental level of at least 8 years old. CBT can be adapted for children with high functioning autism spectrum disorder, mild intellectual delays, and attention challenges.
A psychologist at ABA Connect can provide this treatment. Contact us and we can help you determine an appropriate intervention for you and your child. If your child is not ready for individual psychotherapy but has difficulties with emotion or behavior regulation, behavioral parent training or Parent-Child Interaction Therapy with a psychologist at ABA Connect may be a good option.
Dr. Mariel Cannady
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