Child Anxiety Program

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What is an anxiety disorder and how common are they?

Anxiety disorders are among the most common forms of childhood distress.  Prevalence estimates for childhood anxiety disorders range from 6 to 16%, and a trend exists in which rates increase with age.  Many of the anxieties seen in childhood are not uncommon in the course of normal development; however, childhood anxiety is a concern when the anxiety is extreme, lasts for a long time, and hinders family and/or child functioning. Anxiety disorders tend to be the most common mental health problem affecting children and are among the most effectively treated.  

Who do we accept?

We treat parents of and children diagnosed with Separation Anxiety Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, Specific Phobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and other anxiety diagnoses that are the child’s primary difficulty. If at any time it appears that your child’s primary difficulty is not anxiety, our treatment program may not be the best fit. If this is the case, we will provide you with referrals to ensure that your child receives the best treatment possible.

What kind of treatment will my child be receiving?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is used with all children in order to teach them skills to cope with anxiety-provoking situations. CBT is a treatment method often used to treat mood and anxiety disorders. CBT is based on the belief that our thoughts strongly affect our feelings and behaviors. That is, our behaviors and emotions are not necessarily caused by external factors (people, situations, and events). The benefit to this way of thinking is that we can change the way we think to feel better even if the situation does not change. Similarly, our thoughts and emotions are influenced by our behaviors. As such, changing behavior can have profound effects on mood and thoughts. In CBT, you will find treatment techniques that are cognitive in nature (modification of thoughts, distinguishing among emotions, problem-solving) as well as behavioral in nature (relaxation training, role plays, “Show That I Can” assignments, practice of newly acquired skills).

Does research support this treatment?

Cognitive-behavioral treatments have shown great promise in the treatment of childhood anxiety disorders. Numerous well designed research studies conducted in the United States and other countries around the world routinely find that approximately 60-70% of children who receive a cognitive-behavioral treatment for childhood anxiety disorders no longer have their primary anxiety disorder at the end of treatment. Some of these studies have followed these children for up to 7 years after treatment and continue to find them free of their primary anxiety diagnosis. Additionally, childhood anxiety disorders have been linked to depression and substance use in adolescence and adulthood. Many researchers have suggested that CBT for childhood anxiety disorders may reduce the numbers of children who go on to develop depression and substance use.

Who is present during therapy?

We offer therapy in a variety of formats (child only therapy, parent only therapy, and family therapy). After meeting with you, we can decide together which format is best for you and your child.

If your child is receiving “child only” therapy, you will still have an active role in your child’s treatment. There will be at least two parent sessions throughout the course of your child’s treatment. In these sessions, we will help you to develop the skills necessary to encourage your child to face his/her fears and use his/her coping skills. We also like to check in periodically with you to discuss your child’s progress and answer any questions that you may have.

Regardless of the therapy format that your family is using, never hesitate to contact either your therapist or the Director of the Child Anxiety Program with your questions or concerns.

What actually goes on in therapy?

The first half of therapy (about 8 sessions) is all about learning skills. We teach your child the skills that he/she needs to be able to cope with fears and anxiety. Examples of the skills that your child will be learning include: differentiating among emotions, breathing deeply and relaxing, problem-solving, modifying self-talk, and rewarding efforts at coping.

During the second half of therapy (about 8 sessions), your child will practice the skills that he/she learned during the first half of therapy in increasingly anxiety-provoking situations. Your child will progress through a series of “adventures” or “challenges” during which he/she is placed in an anxiety-provoking situation and coached on using newly learned coping skills. Don’t worry, we start with very mildly anxiety provoking situations. Then we slowly and deliberately work our way up to situations that provoke a greater degree of anxiety. This ensures that your child has developed a sense of mastery before moving on to the next “adventure” or “challenge.”

As may now be obvious, the second half of treatment is different for every child. No two therapy sessions will ever look the same. Each child brings a unique presentation of fears and worries to therapy, and the treatment outcomes are related to how well treatment targets your child’s specific fears and worries. Therefore, we will be soliciting your help in planning for the “adventures” or “challenges” to ensure that we are targeting as many of your child’s fears/worries as possible.

What are STIC tasks?

“Show That I Can” assignments, or STIC tasks, are the homework assignments of our treatment. STIC tasks serve two functions. First, they provide your child with an opportunity to practice the skills that were taught during the previous session.  Secondly, they allow the therapist some insight into the child’s understanding of the concepts and skills being addressed.

So what can I do to help?

No matter what format of therapy your child is receiving, you may at times feel limited in your ability to help and wonder if you are doing all that you can. Rest assured, there is much you can do to decrease your child’s anxiety. In fact, we believe that the control over your child’s anxiety is as much yours as it is your child’s. During treatment, we will more fully discuss these ideas and provide you with specific techniques and strategies to facilitate parenting an anxious child.

How long will my child be in treatment?

Your child’s treatment will take an average of 16 sessions, completed over a 20 week period. We will extend the time period of 20 weeks only if your family has been coming to sessions consistently and additional sessions are likely to be helpful.

Is it okay if my child misses a session?

If, due to circumstances beyond your control, your child must miss a session or two, it will not be detrimental to his/her treatment. However, consistent attendance and active involvement are some of the strongest predictors of positive therapy outcomes.

Additionally, we greatly appreciate your prompt arrival at therapy sessions. Our therapists have very busy schedules and often see clients back-to-back. Therefore, it may not be possible for your therapist to extend a session to make up for missed session due to a late arrival.

Can my child return to the Child Anxiety Program after his/her treatment is completed?

There is a possibility for booster sessions after your child has completed the program if it is agreed that these sessions will be beneficial. Just give us a call if your child begins to experience new problems or revisits some old ones.

Why am I paying a materials fee?

   Every client must pay a $25 materials fee which is collected at the first session. This fee covers the cost of:

  1. The “Coping Cat Workbook” that your child will be using throughout his/her treatment.

  2. Rewards that your child will earn over the course of therapy when he/she accumulates points by completing the “Show That I Can” (STIC) tasks.

  3. Games, paper, markers, and other therapy supplies used during treatment.