How do I choose a child therapist?
The task of finding
a therapist for your child may seem like an extremely difficult task, but
here are a few tips to make the process of choosing a therapist go more smoothly.
In the field of child anxiety, there are some therapists who have been specifically
trained in implementing what we call “cognitive-behavioral” techniques and
skills. Cognitive-behavioral techniques are essentially a set of skills that
children can learn to help them change their fearful thoughts, anxious behaviors,
and to reduce their physical feelings of tension. Cognitive-behavioral skills
approaches to treating child anxiety have been found to have high levels of
success when examined by clinical researchers. For example, a child who is
experiencing panic attacks might learn how to identify anxious thoughts that
trigger panic attacks, learn how to change their anxious feelings, and learn
how to change anxiety-triggering behavior. If you would like to find a cognitive-behaviorally
oriented therapist for your child, here are a few suggestions. First, it might
be helpful to consult the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) website’s directory of providers (www.abct.org).
Also, you could look at the Directory of Providers on the ADAA website (www.adaa.org).
Both of these websites are conveniently listed on our “links” page.
Will my child’s anxiety go away naturally or does he/she need treatment?
This is an excellent question, and one that is commonly asked by
parents. Many childhood fears are normal developmental phenomenon. Fears tend
to rise and dissipate at predictable ages in a child’s life. For example,
a child might develop a fear of the dark at age 4, which dissipates by the
time the child is 6. In addition, it is normal for children to feel fearful
of loud noises when they are very young (See our page on “Fears, Phobias,
and Anxiety”). However, no matter how old your child is, if he or she is experiencing
a fear that is beginning to interfere with aspects of his or her functioning,
such as academic functioning, social functioning, or family functioning, then
these fears may warrant treatment. Very often, successful short-term therapy
can help to alleviate your child’s fears and help your child return to healthy
functioning. If you are unsure whether your child’s fear is normal, or whether
it is interfering in his or her life, it may be a good idea to consult with
a psychologist to determine whether your child could benefit from treatment.
I'm an anxious person also. Is it possible that I gave this anxiety to
Although research has shown that anxiety may be heritable, there
are many other ways that fears may be acquired. For example, your child may
have a more anxious, inhibited temperament, which may make him or her more
vulnerable to feeling anxious. Further, fears are often acquired through the
media, through modeling from others, etc. Fears might also occur after children
have experienced some form of trauma. So, although you may feel you are anxious,
it is not likely that you simply could “give” an anxiety disorder to your
child. There are ways that you may interact with your child, however, that
may function to increase his or her anxiety. It is important to examine such
factors with a trained professional.
What is the difference between cognitive-behavioral treatment and other kinds
of treatment for anxiety?
Cognitive-behavioral treatment is focused on teaching children
and parents specific skills for changing their fearful thoughts, anxious,
tense physical feelings, and avoidant behaviors. Other types of therapy are
more focused on using play therapy techniques, using talk therapy techniques,
etc. to produce change. There is much research evidence suggesting that cognitive-behavioral
techniques are quite successful with reducing anxiety in children. Other forms
of therapy have less empirical support.
How long will it take before I see a change in my child?
This will depend on your particular child’s problems. At the Center
for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University, children are typically
treated within 7-12 sessions for treatment for difficulties such as specific
fears, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive
disorder, etc. In some cases, however, additional sessions are needed to help
a child make the maximum progress.
I have one child who exhibits a lot of anxiety, whereas my other child does
not seem anxious at all. Why did this occur?
It is very normal for different children to have different temperaments.
Some children are more outgoing, and seem to be impervious to feelings of
anxiety, whereas other children may always seem to be anxious. It is possible
for more anxious children to learn skills to help manage their anxiety better
so that they can fully participate in all activities, do well in school, and
not be “held back” by their anxious feelings.
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