Also known as a type of ‘talk therapy’, cognitive behavioral therapy for kids can be a really useful tool for children who have depression, anxiety, OCD, or ADHD, and autism. Because CBT focuses on thoughts and behaviors, it’s actually great for anyone, and I’ve benefited from it alongside my children. When you recognize unhelpful thoughts or behaviors that lead to cycles of negative results, you can change them.
CBT works well for kids because it’s practical and works in everyday situations. In other words, kids can easily see the ‘why’ behind CBT. For instance, in a CBT session, a child with OCD may learn to wait five seconds before performing a soothing action when they have the impulse, such as washing their hands or touching a door. Once they have mastered five seconds, they can extend it to ten seconds, and so on.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for kids works for:
- defiant kids
- obsessive thoughts or impulses
It can teach improved self-image, coping mechanisms, problem-solving, and self-control.
So how does it work? CBT can take several forms.
- Play therapy. You’ve probably heard of play therapy, which uses toys, crafts, art, and role-playing to help children work out problems. Play therapy can be great for younger children.
- Trauma-focused CBT. If your child has experienced a trauma, like a natural disaster or a domestic family issue, tram-focused CBT can focus specifically on what the child has experienced.
- Restructuring type CBT. With restructuring, a child can learn to take a negative thought process and flip it to a better one. For example, “I hate math. I’m terrible at it,” can become “I’m still learning math, but I am understanding more every day.”
- Exposure CBT. Used a lot with anxiety or obsessive disorders, the CBT therapist slowly exposes the child to the things that trigger them in a controlled environment.
Is CBT right for my kid?
The good news: unlike medication, which can feel risky and requires just the right combination, dose, and type to be effective, cognitive behavioral therapy for kids works for a wide variety of situations and rarely has negative side effects. In other words, for most kids, it doesn’t hurt to try. Many parents also pair CBT with medication for optimal effect, but the skills taught in CBT therapy can be used widely for many years to come in the child’s life.