Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Child stands at front of classroom, reading a book aloud

As a university-based specialty clinic, our focus is delivering psychological treatments that are informed by current research. Numerous, large-scale studies have shown cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to be effective for OCD and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. In CBT, therapists work together with families to set concrete goals and monitor progress. Sessions are typically held weekly for 50 to 80 minutes, but may be more or less frequent depending on the child’s needs.

In CBT, the therapist works with the child to develop and practice applying skills for managing anxiety. The child learns to change negative patterns of thinking (the C part) and behaving (the B part) that are related to anxiety. Because avoiding feared situations makes anxiety worse in the long run, the therapist helps the child to overcome avoidance by gradually facing what is feared. Through focusing on skills, CBT prepares the child to cope with situations that may cause anxiety in the future (even after therapy has ended).

Child zooms past on bike as parents cheer

Many children and adolescents benefit from family involvement in treatment. The therapist can help families learn how to support the child in managing anxiety without giving into his/her unrealistic fears. Family-based CBT can also help families communicate more effectively about thoughts and feelings, and work together to solve problems.

CBT may be used alone or with medication. Although we do not prescribe medication at CYARD, we may refer families for consultation and/or coordinate care with a child psychiatrist or pediatrician when appropriate. Ultimately, decisions about medication are left to families.