I offer therapy for children and teens who wish to overcome fear, worry, and anxiety. I often involve parents in the treatment process so that parents can support and encourage their child at home. My therapeutic approach is a collaborative one in which we all work together to help the child or teen cope with anxiety and learn to face it head on. Instead of running away from anxiety, children learn to go toward their anxiety and grow as a result. To achieve this, I work with the child or teen individually, and meet with their parents separately for parent coaching sessions.
In the beginning of therapy, my primary goal is to make sure the child feels safe and secure in the therapeutic relationship. When children feel safe with the therapist they are more likely to open up and trust the therapist with their worries and concerns. Therefore, in the first few sessions, I focus on getting to know the child, his or her likes/dislikes, friendships, interests, etc. After this initial phase, we begin to work on the child’s anxiety and helping them understand how anxiety is getting in the way. If I can help a child see that anxiety is not only not helping them, but actually hurting them, we can usually start the hard work of therapy with a feeling of motivation and eagerness to conquer anxiety.
In treating anxiety, I primarily use cognitive behavioral therapy (also called CBT) and exposure with response prevention. CBT involves learning to think more realistically and less catastrophically, and to behave in new ways — for example by approaching a feared situation instead of avoiding it. The “C” part is the thinking part and the “B” part is the behaving part, hence CBT! Most children who struggle with anxiety have learned to cope by avoiding the things that seem scary or dangerous to them. That’s normal and understandable. My job is to teach them coping skills to reduce their anxiety so that avoidance becomes less necessary for them. Little by little, we work together to face fears instead of avoiding them.
Exposure with response prevention is the part of therapy that involves facing fears in a gradual manner without relying on old and unhelpful coping skills. For a child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, this might involve touching a surface that may contain germs without hand-washing immediately.
Once the goals of therapy have been reached, we begin to prepare the child for life after therapy. This stage of therapy usually involves a few sessions to reinforce coping skills learned in treatment and anticipate situations when coping skills may be needed. The final stage of therapy also involves saying goodbye to the therapist and providing positive closure to the therapy experience.
Some children and teens decide to continue therapy on a less frequent basis after treatment goals have been reached because they enjoy having a safe, trusted adult to discuss concerns with as they grow up. While not every child wants or needs this, I’m happy to provide this if it is desired.
The following anxiety disorders are treated in my practice:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder