About CBT

How does Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) work?

CBT involves education about the nature of anxiety, along with teaching specific skills for managing the physical sensations, (e.g. stomach aches), negative thoughts, and problematic behaviours that accompany anxiety. Through CBT, a child learns in a step by step way to challenge their anxious thoughts rather than accept worry thoughts as the truth. Through the therapy, kids learn to generate more realistic versions of situations and cope. The goal is to coach the child to face their fears by breaking the challenges into small, manageable steps.

A key to combating anxiety is the understanding that avoidance of fears only makes matters worse. Fears are gradually (at the child's pace) faced head on until he or she gets used to the situation once feared. Because anxious thinking riles up the body, children are taught breathing and relaxation techniques. Most children show a response to treatment within 4-6 sessions. 12-16 sessions are usually required, with booster sessions to maintain gains and reduce setbacks.

How common are anxiety disorders in Children?

All children are afraid of something at one point or another in their development. The normal newborn exhibits fears when hearing loud noises. Many little children fear strangers. More often that not, fears are a natural, and even essential emotional response that enables children to protect themselves from potential dangers.

But, when worries or fears are excessive, don't go away, or stop children from engaging in their usual activities, an Anxiety Disorder may be present. The anxiety can be about separation, something catastrophic happening, or fear of rejection. An anxiety Disorder can be present for a long time without anyone realizing what it is. Roughly 6% of children and youth suffer from an anxiety disorder that is serious enough to warrant treatment.

Why does it Happen?

Research suggests that young children who are temperamentally (from birth) shy in unfamiliar situations are more prone to anxiety. Anxiety Disorders tend to run in families; however, the complex relationship between one's biology and situational factors is not easy to tease apart. The home, extended family, peer group, and school can all contribute to anxiety. The good news is that Anxiety Disorders are effectively treated with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and/or medication, if symptoms persist.