CBT for Children & Young People – Why is it the “Treatment of Choice”?

An estimated 2-5% of children and adolescents visit to their GP with emotional or behavioural problems.. Common problems for school aged children and adolescents are depression, panic disorder and anxiety disorders, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), separation anxiety and phobias.

Government recommended NICE guidelines recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as the first stop for most emotional problems faced by young people. In the case of depression it is noted: “Children and young people with moderate to severe depression should be offered, as a first-line treatment, a specific psychological therapy (individual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy [CBT]…).”

The guidelines add, “Antidepressant medication should not be offered to a child or young person with moderate to severe depression except in combination with a concurrent psychological therapy.”

NICE guidelines recommend that for “Children and young people with OCD with moderate to severe functional impairment…should be offered CBT…that involves the family or carers and is adapted to suit the developmental age of the child as the treatment of choice.”

Why has CBT proven to be so effective for young people? This question was posed to our Clinical Psychologist, Dr Sian Thrasher. “CBT is a practical and straightforward approach, which is easy for youngsters to understand and work with…[they] feel supported to tackle difficulties in a constructive common sense way. With good rapport with their therapist and support from parents, youngsters really take to sessions, and can turn things around remarkably quickly”.

Dr Thrasher’s Primary Care client group is made up of 30-40% 10-18 year olds. Children are seen with wide ranging issues from separation anxiety and depression to social phobia and OCD. Dr. Thrasher explains what CBT has to offer: “There is an increasing evidence base for CBT techniques with youngsters. And at a time of life when a lot depends on being able to manage the pressures around school and relationships, CBT can provide tools for surviving teenage years, and set young people up for the best possible start to their adult lives”.

Dr Thrasher says, “Treatments are relatively short, and with parental involvement enormous gains can be made in just a few weeks…For many children and their parents, this will be one of the most important investments they make in maximising their future happiness”.

With increasing numbers of children and young people visiting their GP’s with emotional and behavioural problems, it is unsurprising that government directives support increased access to CBT for young people. CBT treatments are fast and effective and give children the best possible support for coping with the challenges of childhood.

Studies show CBT is the most effective treatment for PTSD, too. See http://www.news-medical.net/news/20121213/CBT-most-effective-for-children-with-post-traumatic-stress-disorder.aspx

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