What is CBT?
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a short-term concrete therapy that has repeatedly been shown to be the most effective at treating Anxiety, OCD, and OC Spectrum Disorders. CBT works to challenge thought patterns and behaviors which maintain anxiety by putting focus on problem-solving and skill-building. CBT differs from traditional psychotherapy in that both therapist and clients play active roles in identifying the problems and creating goals to alleviate them.
The therapist will work with clients to identify and create a list of their anxiety provoking symptoms. From here, the therapist will have clients face their fears through a form of CBT called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Here clients are asked to expose themselves to their worries while learning to tolerate their heightened sense of anxiety. The therapist helps clients to recognize their worries as being out-of-proportion to the actual thought or object. ERP is done in the office during therapy sessions as well as weekly homework. It is important clients not only practice with the therapist, but to learn how to apply what they have learned on their own.
There are some instances in which ERP is not appropriate, thus a therapist may use Imaginal Exposure. This is when clients write a "worse case" scenario story about their fears and obsessions. Clients then experience exposure to their fear by reading the story a multitude of times. Again, through exposure clients learn to identify their thoughts as unrealistic and learn to tolerate their anxiety.
By engaging in CBT, clients can become de-sensitized to those thoughts, fears, and obsessions which they were once sensitized to, thus experiencing a decreased sense of anxiety.
Children & CBT
When your children begin to experience Anxiety, OCD, and/or an OC spectrum disorder, it can be difficult to know what they need and how to help them. It is important to find effective treatment for such disorders and to treat them as they arise. When anxiety disorders are left untreated they can become more intense and crippling over time. The first step is to find a therapist who specializes in the treatment of children and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the treatment of choice for these disorders. CBT is an active concrete therapy that has repeatedly been shown to be the most effective and the best at promoting maintaining gains over time. Through CBT children will learn that their excessive worries are not real, but only a feeling. For example, a child may feel something is dangerous, but that does not necessarily mean it is. Feelings are not truths. This can be very difficult for children to understand until they've had some pychoeducation and explanation about anxiety from a therapist. A therapist specializing in the treatment of anxiety would be able to assist such children with learning to recognize their worries as being out-of-proportion to the actual thought and/or object.
Through CBT children can learn to identify their irrational thoughts and label them as such. They will learn to generate more realistic thoughts and more appropriate ways of coping. A therapist will often have children engage in Exposure and Response Prevention. This is when children are asked to expose themselves to the idea, thought, or object that creates excessive anxiety for them. A specialist will know how to walk these children through these exercises in manageable steps. As they move through this process of ERP, they will often become more confident along the way about recognizing their anxious thoughts and challenging them. It is important these children only do what they are ready to do and comfortable with. If pushed too quickly, they may react negatively and treatment may be poorly effected. Through ERP they are learning how to re-approach these anxiety-provoking situations with new skills.
Parent involvement is very important. Children need the support, encouragement and often times assistance in doing this work.