Mental health problems in children can have profound effects on learning and achievement, socialization, self-esteem and quality of life. Elevated levels of stress, anxiety and depression can lead to physical manifestations as well.
Similar to CBT interventions for adults, CBT for children centers on the connection between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Therapy begins with an age-appropriate explanation of the basic concepts. It can incorporate play, which is often rooted in behavioral intervention and strategically designed to convey certain CBT concepts and skills. Given that examining our thoughts is an abstract idea, these techniques are adapted to children’s developmental abilities. Particularly with younger children, therapy could highlight behavioral strategies.
These can include:
Based on the understating that low mood can keep us from engaging in activities that bring satisfaction, mastery and enjoyment, this technique helps to reverse the cycle of avoidance and isolation.
Includes activity scheduling to reduce avoidance and the downward spiral that causes an exacerbation of mood symptoms.
Designed to examine and collect evidence that either confirms or disproves one’s beliefs.
Specific interventions focus on creating a shift in any of the three areas of thought, emotion, and behavior.
Practicing facing your fears in a gradual and guided manner.
Systematic approach designed to identify problems, determine possible solutions and carry out behavioral experiments that will provide information on the effectiveness of solutions.
CBT pays particular attention to skills that improve coping, resilience and mastery.
Given that emotions have a physical manifestation such as the fight or flight response in anxiety, children are taught to cope effectively with anxiety and develop a tool kit that they can access whenever they are experiencing these symptoms.
Relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, as well as breathing and visualization techniques can help to manage uncomfortable physical sensations associated with some emotions.
Self-instructional statements that focus on adaptive coping and resilience are developed to guide in creating an internal dialogue focused on healthy responses to situations.
Parent training is often incorporated in family sessions and individual meetings with parents. This can provide an important adjunct to individual interventions and can help parents learn skills that can support their child’s progress in CBT. These can involve constructive modeling, shaping appropriate behavior, effective limit setting, validation and problem solving.
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