What is CBT for Kids?

What is CBT for Kids?

When parents research information on therapy for their children, or they ask for recommendations from pediatricians, friends or family, many people come across references to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT. Parents may read statements that CBT is used to treat anxiety and depression in children or teens. Or they may see that it is an Empirically Supported Treatment. Here are some answers to questions parents may have about what cognitive behavioral therapy is and how it works for their children or teens:

What ages has CBT shown to be effective for?

CBT is an effective treatment for individuals of all ages, from children to the end of life.


What will my child be doing in the therapy sessions?

CBT seeks to address three areas of our lives: Thoughts, Emotions, and Behaviors. These three areas are related to one another. For example, when we feel bad we experience pessimistic thoughts. Because we think things will go poorly, we avoid activities. And finally, by not engaging in these activities, we feel bad, repeating the cycle. By addressing all three areas, many children and teens experience decreased psychological distress.


What does empirically supported treatment mean?

This means that researchers and psychologists have scientifically studied the therapy approach.  The results of the research show that it is more effective than placebo or no treatment. Additionally, other studies have replicated the results. Although CBT was originally developed for treatment of depression, this therapy has been found to be effective for a number of psychological and mental health needs, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Substance Use
  • Social skills
  • Performance Anxiety
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD and ADD)

How long will my child be in CBT for?
CBT is skill based and time limited. Most recommendations suggest 12-16 weeks of therapy. However, this varies between individuals, and there are times when therapy is extended beyond that. This is a significant difference and potential benefit from other therapies that may last indefinitely. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches children skills rather than simply focusing on exploring thoughts and past experiences. Therapists teach these skills to help them more effectively manage their behaviors, emotions, and thoughts.

In CBT we recognize that there is a delicate balance between control and acceptance. That is, we learn that the goal is not necessarily to control our emotions but to experience them and accept them so that we can prevent them from interfering with our functioning.


To schedule a free consultation to learn about our therapy, contact us today to speak with one of our psychologists. We serve families in San Diego North County, including Carlsbad, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, Escondido and surrounding cities.

About Colby Carter

Colby Carter, PhD is a clinical psychologist in Carlsbad, CA specializing in child and teen therapy for anxiety and depression. His therapy approach involves a blending of mindfulness techniques (relaxation, meditation), insight into past experiences, and skill building for success outside of therapy.

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