Anxiety is a normal and adaptive part of the human experience. Without the experience of fear and anxiety, we would be inadequately prepared for important life challenges. But for some people, the experience of anxiety overpowers other emotions and constitutes a diagnosable condition. In fact, 29% of Americans meet criteria for a lifetime history of an anxiety disorder, and 18% of Americans do so in a given year, contributing to difficulties in work, school, relationships, health status, and overall quality of life.
Our clinicians use the most current evidence-based practices as a foundation for treatment planning and intervention. Several decades of research have demonstrated the efficacy of behavioral and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for adult depression and anxiety. These treatments have been shown via vigorous research to help those suffering from anxiety, from the very young to the elderly. More recently, therapies that emphasize mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches have also been shown to be effective, and we integrate these regularly. Treatments are then tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual patient and his or her family.
what is cbt?
CBT includes a variety of cognitive and behavioral interventions that are typically delivered in a semi-structured, time-limited fashion to address the needs of specific patients. At its core, CBT has a foundation in cognitive theory. Cognitive theory posits that the way we interpret life circumstances (our thoughts) influence how we feel (our emotions) and what we do or avoid (our behavior). Cognitive interventions teach patients new skills, enabling them to look more closely at their thoughts and better manage negative emotions and problematic behaviors.
In addition, exposure-based approaches are central to the cognitive-behavioral treatment of anxiety disorders. Briefly, exposure-based approaches involve the gradual exposure to a feared object or situation in a safe and controlled environment to allow for habituation of the feared response. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a specific exposure-based technique often used for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder in which patients have contact with feared consequence and then refrain from engaging in compulsive behavior or mental rituals.
CBT is a collaborative, action-oriented, and problem-focused approach to therapy. All CBT interventions have a common goal of teaching patients new tools to manage anxiety and other problems so that they can eventually monitor symptoms of anxiety without ongoing therapy. CBT works best when patients are willing to put time in between therapy sessions to practice new skills.
Can Children Benefit?
A large body of literature has demonstrated the efficacy of CBT for childhood and adolescent anxiety disorders. CBT is designed to help children reduce anxiety, challenge anxious thoughts, and approach (rather than avoid) anxiety-provoking stimuli. CBT interventions vary slightly depending on the presenting problem, though they share a number of key cognitive and behavioral components. Cognitive strategies may include identifying and challenging anxious thoughts, problem-solving, and affective education. Behavioral strategies include modeling, relaxation, exposure to feared situations, and rewards. Parents learn strategies to support their children’s treatment.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a variant of CBT for children with obsessive compulsive disorder. ERP targets obsessions and compulsions by gradually exposing children to the triggers of their anxiety and intrusive thoughts and helping them to resist engaging in compulsive rituals. CBT treatments for child and adolescent anxiety typically occur over the course of 12-20 weeks.