Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and behavior therapy emphasize the connections between thoughts, physical sensations, and behaviors in the maintenance of anxiety-related problems. These forms of therapy tend to be present-focused. CBT helps clients understand the nature of their anxiety and what maintains it, as well as teaches them tools for how to break out of unhelpful patterns.
Exposure therapy is generally considered be the most important component of child anxiety treatment. Exposure involves facing one’s fears until they are experienced as less scary and more tolerable. The theory behind exposure therapy is that to feel less afraid, we often have to build experiences that help us learn that we are safe. Exposure techniques are used in nearly all CBT treatments for anxiety disorders, as well as in treating trauma.
A specific kind of exposure, called exposure and response prevention (ERP) is used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In ERP, clients not only face their fears, but also learn to prevent the usual OCD rituals and compulsions that maintain OCD. Exposure therapy is difficult, but the gains that can be experienced make it well worth the effort.
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 making 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.
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).
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 parents and families of those with anxiety problems who would like to learn more about treatment options for their loves ones.
The psychiatrists at the Child Anxiety Center have considerable experience treating the range of anxiety and related problems. Research indicates that a number of different medications can be quite effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and the decision about whether to include medication as part of the overall treatment plan is made with each client on a case-by-case basis.