Therapy Services Provided at the Child Anxiety Center
At the Child Anxiety Center, all of our therapists have extensive training and experience with cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) and behavior therapy, as these are the treatment approaches that have been found by research to be most effective for treating anxiety problems. CBT and behavior therapy encompass a wide range of treatments and we select specific interventions to use with clients based on their unique symptoms and needs. Below is a description of the the types of treatment we most commonly use.
Cognitive-behavior therapy/behavior therapy
Cognitive-behavior therapy and behavior therapy emphasize the connections between thoughts, physical sensations, and behaviors in the maintenance of anxiety-related problems. These forms of therapy are present-focused and involve helping clients understand the nature of their symptoms and what is maintaining them, as well as teaching them tools for how to break out of unhelpful symptom patterns. Cognitive strategies involve teaching individuals how to examine and challenge unhelpful thought patterns (i.e., thoughts that lead to feelings of anxiety, worry, or panic) and learn how to think about situations and stressful events in more helpful ways. Behavioral strategies involve helping clients change unhelpful behavior patterns that can maintain problems over time (i.e., avoidance behaviors, compulsions/rituals, repetitive behaviors, unhelpful coping strategies). Relaxation strategies are also part of many treatments for anxiety and can be very effective for helping people manage physical symptoms of anxiety (i.e., rapid heart rate or breathing, chronic muscle tension).
Cognitive-behavioral and behavioral treatments share the goal of teaching clients how to become their own therapists so that they can successfully manage symptoms independently over time. As a result, both approaches are very active and typically involve clients practicing skills learned in treatment between therapy sessions to maximize generalization of these skills to daily life. All of the treatments listed below are specific types of cognitive-behavioral/behavioral therapies.
Exposure therapy (sometimes also referred to as exposure and response prevention, or ERP) is arguably the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders. In short, exposure involves teaching people how to face their fears and decrease patterns of avoidance and safety behaviors/rituals that maintain anxiety problems over time. In the process, clients are able to reclaim aspects of their lives that are important to them and have often been limited due to anxiety symptoms. CBT and behavioral treatments for anxiety emphasize the role that avoidance of triggers/situations that cause anxiety plays in keeping anxiety symptoms going. By facing feared situations and triggers, individuals are able to experience new learning that leads to new and more adaptive ways of responding to these situations. Exposure therapy and ERP are considered gold-standard treatments for all anxiety disorders (i.e., phobias, social anxiety, PTSD, GAD, OCD, panic, agoraphobia, health anxiety).
Habit reversal training and stimulus control
Habit reversal training (HRT) and stimulus control are the primary evidence-based treatments for body-focused repetitive behaviors (i.e., hair pulling, skin picking, nail biting), as well as tic disorders. These treatments involve assisting individuals in identifying and implementing behaviors and strategies that make it more difficult to do the target behaviors (i.e., pulling hair, picking skin, motor/vocal tic), as well as make changes to the environment to reduce the likelihood that these behaviors will occur. Clients are often surprised to learn how many types of situations and factors (i.e., emotions, thoughts, physical sensations) can trigger these behaviors and how much control they can gain over these behaviors. Other coping skills (i.e., relaxation skills, strategies for managing strong emotions, cognitive therapy skills) are also often a part of these treatments when they address the needs of specific clients.
Mindfulness and acceptance-based treatments
In recent years an increasing amount of research has been conducted on treatments for anxiety that involve mindfulness and acceptance-based strategies. Some of these strategies have been adapted from established treatments, such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Although newer than other forms of CBT and behavior therapy, these approaches show promise and we often use mindfulness and acceptance-based strategies and interventions into our work with clients when appropriate. These treatments involve teaching individuals new ways of observing and experiencing symptoms (such as distressing thoughts, emotions, and body sensations) in order to develop different and more effective ways of responding to them. This work also often helps individuals clarify their values and goals in order to increase participation in valued actions and activities and to be more present in daily life.
Other treatments we offer
We also offer a range of other behavioral treatments, including behavioral activation (BA) for depression, behavioral parent training for parents who need assistance with managing a range of child/adolescent behavioral symptoms, as well as family coaching for family members who are trying to learn how to better support their loved ones with anxiety and related problems. We also provide diagnostic assessment services for individuals needing assistance with identifying the specific anxiety problems they are experiencing, as well as consultation services for family and friends of those with anxiety problems who would like to learn more about treatment options for their loves ones.
For some clients, treatment of anxiety also involves medication. The Child Anxiety Center has an child/adolescent psychiatrist on staff who can provide medication consultations, as well as medication treatment services.