Some of the most common childhood problems that can be treated using CBT are: depression, anxiety disorders (separation anxiety, phobias, OCD), depression, anger control issues, impulsivity, tics, ADHD, Aspergers and child-parent conflict problems. CBT has been applied to nearly the entire range of adult-based psychological or interpersonal problems, as well. CBT can be used alone or in conjunction with medication or other therapies to help improve such conditions.
Most studies have concluded that children generally should be at least 7 or 8 years of age to benefit from CBT. The child must have the cognitive maturity to understand such concepts as “self-talk” and “self-instruction.” It is important that the child have some awareness of their problem(s) and have some interest or motivation to learn new skills and improve their situation. Therapeutic change is facilitated by practicing some of the techniques at home with parent support and encouragement. If the patient’s intellectual functioning is significantly limited or if the patients is resistant or unmotivated to change, he or she may be better suited for a different type of intervention or therapy.
During therapy, the therapist helps the patient become more aware of negative or distorted ways of thinking that may be contributing to negative feelings or behaviors. Once those “dysfunctional” thoughts are identified, the therapist teaches the patient how to look at situations, himself, or others in a more realistic, adaptive, or positive manner. CBT also teaches patients more positive ways to cope with everyday stressors, communicate with others effectively, be more self-aware, and solve problems more constructively. CBT with children and adolescents also includes educating the family on how they can help change behaviors through structuring and modifying the child’s environment.
Once there is a better recognition and awareness of what one is thinking and feeling, patients can learn strategies to feel and act better–even though the external situation that is causing stress or depressing might not change. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy does dictate how people should feel, but the approach teaches people how to think more rationally, how to self-regulate in stressful situations, and how to “self-counsel” when problematic circumstances arise. A major goal of treatment is to promote generalization of the practical strategies that are learned in therapy sessions to all aspects of a person’s life.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is performed in a “session” with a trained therapist. The Therapist will ask questions to understand a patients concerns, their characteristic ways of thinking about themselves or their circumstances, their successful or unsuccessful attempts to improve their situation, and their goals for change. Therapy is practical, collaborative, focused on developing skills, and designed promote change efficiently. In some cases CBT can result in positive changes after only a few sessions. Most courses of CBT treatment are “planned” for 8 to 16 sessions at which point progress is assessed and, if therapy goals are met, treatment is concluded.