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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Kids

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a treatment approach that focuses on the relationships between thoughts, feelings and behavior. CBT helps individuals explore how they think and how their thoughts affect how they feel and behave.  Beyond just understanding patterns of thinking and behaving, CBT is an active and structured approach that helps individuals learn and practice specific strategies to address problematic behaviors. CBT is goal-oriented, focusing on the here-and-now and solving current, everyday problems. CBT for kids modifies the treatment according to the age and abilities of the child. CBT for kids incorporates play and pulls from a child’s particular interests to help increase his/her understanding of and motivation to use strategies.  Specific strategies include teaching children to identify and express their emotions, to relax their bodies, to notice, challenge, and change worry or angry thoughts, to problem-solve and use coping skills, to develop and use social skills, and to face their fears.For children with anxiety, a large portion of treatment focuses on exposure, or the process of helping children gradually face whatever they are afraid of, often in a fun way that allows children to experience success along the way. Importantly, parents participate in the treatment process so that they can both face any fears they, themselves, may have and learn how to be their children’s coaches outside of session. For example, for a child who is scared of dogs, parents may practice how to help their child take small steps, like watching videos of a dog or petting a familiar dog, while encouraging their child to use coping skills learned in treatment and praising their child for their bravery.

Ultimately, the goal of treatment is to help children and families learn how to use strategies and solve problems on their own so they may continue to support each other and achieve their goals without a therapist’s presence.

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