CBT for children has grown in popularity in the last few years. There is a large evidence base showing it to be highly effective, and more effective than many medications alone. Given that CBT teaches lifelong skills and coping strategies that can be applied across a situation, it can have different long-term benefits for the child or teenager.
CBT can be useful for many different conditions as it helps form healthy responses to challenging situations and research has shown particular benefits for the following conditions: Anxiety Disorders, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Low mood and Depression Stress Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Phobias Bullying Behavioural Problems
14 Benefits of Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Kids and Youth
1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy enhances self-control, perceptions of personal efficacy, rational problem-solving skills, social skills, and participation in activities that bring a sense of pleasure or mastery (Clabby, 2006).
2. Children between the ages of 7-15 can experience a reduction in anxiety, increased coping skills, and improved emotional awareness and regulation post-CBT treatment (Suveg et al, 2009).
3. CBT can equip children with the skills needed to understand and cope with their emotions: children and adolescents who can effectively manage their emotions are 60% less likely to develop mental disorders in later life (University of Cambridge, 2011).
4. Trauma-focused CBT significantly improves symptoms of PTSD and reduces abuse-related depression, shame and harmful sexual behaviors in children below the age of 7 (Cohen, Deblinger, Mannarino, & Steer, 2004). Cohen et al (2004) also found that the inclusion of a parent or guardian in TF-CBT led to significantly greater improvements in traumatized children with respect to interpersonal trust and perceived credibility.
5. Group CBT has been shown to improve expressiveness and social skills while decreasing social anxiety and self-reported loneliness in young adults aged 11-18 years with autism (PenCRU, 2017).
6. CBT can be adapted to allow children who cannot or will not verbalize to express their emotions via other avenues.
7. An examination of school-based CBT programs found improvements in resilience, positive thinking, an increased sense of control, and a reduction in negative self-talk and non-productive coping strategies (Cunningham, Brandon & Frydenberg, 1999).
8. CBT may improve moderate to severe anger, irritability and physical aggression in children and adolescents (Sukhodolsky, 2016). During CBT, children can learn how to regulate frustration, improve social problem-solving skills, and role-play assertive behaviors that can be used during conflicts instead of aggression.
9. CBT is flexible and interventions can be adapted to accommodate the developmental stage of the patient in order to treat specific disorders using age-appropriate methods.
10. Cognitive-behavioral play therapy (CBPT) can be used in the treatment of selective mutism, anxiety disorders, separation anxiety, sexual abuse, sleep problems, acting out behavior, and the effects of parental divorce in young children (Knell, Wozner, & Rahav, 1999). During CBPT age-appropriate instruments are used to act out scenarios portraying healthy ways to deal with negative emotions, thus helping children to learn new ways of coping with trauma.
11. Among children experiencing chronic migraines, the use of CBT combined with medication resulted in greater reductions in headache occurrence and migraine-related disability compared with the use of pharmaceutical treatment alone (Powers et al, 2013).
12. Sleep in children and teens can be affected by a number of factors including biological factors, stress, increasing school and social obligations. CBT has been shown to significantly improve sleep onset latency, instances of waking after sleep onset, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency (de Bruin et al., 2014).
13. CBT for anxiety-related school refusal has shown clinically significant improvements in the attendance of 88% of participants at a small ‘school-refusing’ study. In a five year follow-up, 76% of participants demonstrated normal levels of school attendance and required no additional treatment for school refusal behavior (King et al, 2001).
14. CBT is as effective a treatment for OCD in children and adolescents as medication alone; decreasing symptoms of childhood OCD over a 12-week program with enduring improvement found at a 9-month follow-up (Asbahr et al, 2005).