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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Children

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)?

CBT is a type of mental health therapy. It is used to help your child create more realistic, appropriate thoughts about himself or herself and his or her behaviors. CBT is short-term therapy that may last up to 20 sessions. Your child may work alone with a mental health provider or in a group with family members. CBT may be used along with medicines that help treat your child's disorder.

What happens during CBT?

Your child's therapist will help your child identify thought patterns that are not healthy. Your child will learn to understand how the thoughts affect his or her behavior. Your child will set goals for the thoughts and behaviors he or she wants to change. Your child's therapist may use games to help your child understand his or her emotions. Your child may be asked to write down his or her feelings, thoughts, and the result of his or her actions.

What are common disorders treated by CBT?

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Panic disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child feels like hurting himself or herself.
  • Your child has done something on purpose to hurt himself or herself.

When should I call my child's doctor or therapist?

  • Your child becomes more sad or fearful.
  • Your child's thoughts or behaviors return, or continue after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.