Children today are more stressed and anxious than ever before. The pressure to measure up to peers, please parents and teachers, perfect their after-school activities, and manage their feelings can be very overwhelming. These overwhelming feelings often times lead to anxiety.
Experts say that anxiety disorders are some of the most prevalent mental heath issues in youth today. However they are often undetected and untreated which can prevent a child or teen from developing skills imperative for success later in life. Unlike normal childhood fears and insecurities anxiety disorders are extreme and don’t subside with time which
Traditionally anxiety in children has been treated with prescribed medications, cognitive behavior therapy, and cognitive restructuring. These treatments focus on anxiety-management, relaxation skills, and positive thinking. But therapists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Virginia Tech, and other institutions are finding that exposing children to the things and situations that cause their anxiety can be extremely effective in treating it.
The Child and Adolescent Anxiety Disorders program at the Mayo Clinic uses this innovative approach to treating anxiety in youths by gradually exposing them to things that they fear most and working with their parents to act as “exposure coaches” as opposed to enablers.
Parents often times help their children to escape or avoid stressful and feared situations, which can cause anxiety symptoms to worsen. Parents don’t realize that stepping in and making accommodations to help their children avoid things or situations that cause their anxiety can actually make their anxiety worse. Dr. Stephen Whiteside, a Mayo pediatric psychologist explains that “kids who avoid fearful situations don’t have the opportunity to face their fears and don’t learn that their fears are manageable”.
The Mayo clinic has developed several intensive therapy session plans and anxiety clinics to help children overcome anxiety and phobias, which have proven to be very successful. Children are slowly exposed to situations that cause fear and therapist work with their parents to reinforce and maintain what the child has learned instead of acting as an enabler. The results have been astounding with children doing things and putting themselves in situations that before were not even imaginable.
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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant. Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.
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