Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): What Parents Need to Know
CBT is considered one of the most effective treatments to help anyone better manage common stressful situations, depression, anxiety, or mental health disorders by teaching them healthy coping mechanisms. In CBT, the child works with a counselor, licensed social worker, or therapist in one-on-one sessions or in groups with family members or people with similar issues. The therapist will ask questions and encourage the child to reshape their negative or inaccurate thinking about what's troubling them.
Having a good connection with the therapist can help your child get the most benefit from CBT, so if you or your child doesn’t feel comfortable with the first therapist you see, try someone else.
What to Expect from CBT Therapy
At the initial session, the therapist will gather information and ask questions to help identify the situations your child needs help with. It might take a few sessions for the therapist to fully understand your child’s situation and decide together what problems and goals to focus on.
Then the therapist will encourage your child to talk about their thoughts, emotions, and beliefs about these problems. This may include observing self-talk, physical, emotional responses and behaviors in different situations, or your child’s negative beliefs about themselves. Identifying negative or inaccurate thinking can help your child to recognize patterns of thinking that may be contributing to the problem.
Finally, the therapist will encourage the child to reshape negative or inaccurate thinking by assessing whether the view of a situation is based on fact or reality. The child learns to replace the inaccurate thought or negative behavior with more appropriate thoughts and behaviors that help the child cope with and overcome their negative experiences. With practice, helpful thinking and behavior patterns will become a habit and won't take as much effort.
Success with therapy depends on the child’s ability to express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The therapist may ask your child to do activities at home, such as reading, journal writing, or other practices that build on the regular therapy sessions. Doing these homework assignments will help the child practice what they have learned in the therapy sessions.
Length of CBT Therapy
CBT is generally considered short-term therapy, ranging from about five to 20 sessions. Your therapist can recommend how many sessions may be right for your child. It is important to stick to your treatment plan and attend all the sessions. Missing sessions can disrupt your child’s progress.
Final note to parents
Therapy is most effective when you and your child are active participants and share in goal-setting. Make sure you and your therapist agree about the major issues and how to tackle them. Together, you can set goals and assess progress over time. It may take several sessions before you begin to see improvement, so don't expect instant results. But if after several sessions, therapy isn't helping, talk to your child’s therapist. Your therapist may decide to make some changes or try a different approach.
Working on emotional issues can be painful. It's not uncommon to feel worse during the initial part of therapy as your child begins to address difficult issues. Be patient and supportive of your child’s effort.
Alpha School an private special education school in New Jersey
Our Mission at The Alpha School is to help all of our special needs students with the learning, social, language, and behavioral support they deserve. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student to becoming the best they can while providing a safe and nurturing educational environment.
We would be more than happy to discuss your child’s specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.370.1150, or request a tour of Alpha School of Jackson, NJ located just minutes off of Route 9 and Route 195 in Ocean County.
— John Gonzalez, Principal-Alpha School, Jackson, NJ