Considering the child’s developmental stage when applying Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, (CBT) interventions it is highly important. Since CBT involves working with cognitions, the child therapist needs to adjust the techniques to the child’s capacity to think in abstract terms and being able to develop self observing skills to evaluate his or her own thoughts and feelings even with the therapist’s help. CBT perspective can be utilized when working with common disorder present in childhood such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive, fears and phobias and trauma.
CBT is a broad umbrella where different types of treatments focus on modifying dysfunctional cognitions and behaviors. The concepts of the CBT involve the notion of how behaviors and feelings are influenced by the person’s cognitions and beliefs system. For instance, in Beck’s theory it is hypothesized that the client presents distortions about the self, the environment and the future. The goals and therapeutic techniques gravitate around developing functional coping skills, restructure cognitive distortions and promoting problem- solving.
Some CBT Techniques are Socratic questioning, problem solving, self-monitoring and self- regulation, affect education or mindfulness, cognitive restructuring, exposure or imagery, relaxation techniques training, modeling and role-playing. These techniques when adapted to the child are useful tools. For example, in my professional work with children I used breathing exercises to manage intense anxiety symptoms on one of my young patients. This intervention worked well to calm down my client’s anxious affect.
From the CBT perspective it is assumed that the client is the expert and she or he needs to work with the therapist from a collaborative attitude. However, it is important to consider that the nature of the child’s treatment and the child presenting problems necessarily imply working with family members and parents, otherwise the treatment may not be effective.
María De Toro, Clinical Psychotherapist.