Types of Anxiety Treated:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Our practices all have specialized training and expertise in treating many of the disorders children, adolescents, and adults suffer from including generalized anxiety, social phobia, separation anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and phobias. All treatment cases begin with consultations in order to diagnose, understand the causes of emotional distress, and determine the levels of interference with functioning at home, with friends, or at school/work. Based upon this consultation, then treatment is started using empirically-validated treatments known to be effective in reducing overall symptom expression.
For many of these areas of difficulty, we use a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approach. For children, this generally involves using a program called Coping Cat. There has been considerable research conducted on this therapeutic approach, and it has been found to be highly effective in reducing anxiety and alleviating emotional distress. CBT Therapy is divided into three phases. Below you will find a description of this therapy approach. While this is a standard, research-based therapy model, we are able to personalize it for each individual. We recognize that most individuals struggling with anxiety, especially children, may also feel nervous about entering therapy, so we begin treatment by getting to know individuals in order to customize the treatment approach as much as possible.
Phase 1: Teaching how to Examine Thoughts & Relaxation Skills Training. In the first phase, we teach individuals a plan for coping with their unhelpful emotions. During this phase, individuals learn how to recognize signs of their emotional state, how to identify their unhelpful thoughts, and how to gather evidence against those unhelpful thoughts. They learn how to change the way they are thinking about the situation in order to change the way they are feeling (i.e., lower their anxiety). They also learn other helpful strategies, such as relaxation and problem-solving skills.
Phase 2: Skills Application with Therapist’s Support and Coping Skills Coaching. Once they have mastered the skill learning stage, individuals are ready to begin the second phase of treatment, called the exposure phase. This phase involves applying their skills to situations/worries that provoke their anxiety. Usually, when people are anxious about something, they tend to avoid it. Although it may help them in the moment, avoidance ultimately strengthens anxiety in the long-run. Therefore, it is important for people with anxiety to learn how to apply coping skills while approaching the feared situation/worries.
The core principle of exposures is this: the more often you face your situation/worry and work through your anxiety, the easier it gets, and the less anxious you become. For example, Michael is a 10 year-old boy who is afraid of ordering his own food in a restaurant. Therefore, accomplishing this task becomes one of his therapy goals. Michael will learn how to develop his own plan for coping with the anxiety he feels while ordering food in a restaurant. Then he will go out and do it. The more often Michael orders his own food at restaurants, the easier it will get and the more comfortable he will become. Once Michael has conquered this fear, then he would be ready to tackle another one.
Phase 3: Maintenance Plan. Once an individual’s overall anxiety has significantly improved, he/she enters the final phase of treatment, called the maintenance phase. In this last phase, the client attends therapy less frequently. The purpose of these “booster” sessions is to help maintain treatment gains. As a result of CBT therapy, individuals not only usually feel better, but they also get better at understanding what triggers their own anxiety and better able to turn these negative thoughts around. By engaging in counseling using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, indviduals will have the additional benefit of developing their problem-solving and coping skills, giving them more self -confidence and ability to cope and adapt in the future.
PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT/PARENT SUPPORT/FAMILY THERAPY. While treating children and adolescents for anxiety, it is essential to involve parents in the process. It is important for parents to understand what they can do to help cultivate their child’s new skills. Parenting is a tough job in general, but parenting an anxious child/adolescent brings extra challenges. Parents often state they are unsure of what to say or do in response to their child’s anxiety. They want to reassure their child/adolescent and protect him/her from distress, but are often afraid that doing so could make the anxiety worse. Thus, we feel that parent training and parental support are essential components of the treatment process. We help parents manage their own anxiety and learn appropriate ways to respond to their children’s fears, anxiety and stress.