Psychotherapy in adolescents and children

Psychotherapy in adolescents and children

The effectiveness of cognitive-behavioural therapy in treating children and adolescents has been shown through extensive research to yield successful results. CBT is often used to treat mood disorders such as depression and bipolar mood disorder, as well as with anxiety disorders such as OCD, panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and social phobias. Research also clearly demonstrates its efficacy with post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as with crisis debriefing.

Adolescent CBT has a proven track record in behaviour modification and motivational enhancement, including with problems such as anger management, school truancy, separation anxiety disorder and drug addiction, as well as with adolescent behavioural addictions such as eating disorders and self-mutilation.

It is vital that any psychotherapy with adolescents addresses the twin issues of motivation and alliance. Often adolescents are referred by their parents, or their schools, in a situation where they are viewed as ‘the problem’, so they may arrive with a negative view of the therapeutic process and believe that the therapist is just another extension of the ‘authorities’. It is vital that a therapist who works with children and adolescents is able to motivate them through addressing issues of confidentiality, through facilitating the adolescent in identifying their own problem with their current situation, and through imparting to the family involved a more systemic understanding of the problem.

Although the adolescent cognitive-behavioural therapist works primarily with the adolescent, it is often found that factors outside of the adolescent have a role in maintaining their emotional state or behaviour. It is therefore sometimes necessary for the therapist to provide ‘parent skills training’ for the parents, and at times other skills such as anger management skills also have to be taught. It is occasionally necessary to involve the entire family in the therapeutic process, despite the adolescent being the person identified as having the ‘problem’.

Childhood disorders, often labeled as developmental disorders or learning disorders, most often occur and are diagnosed when the child is of school-going age. Although some adults may also relate to some of the symptoms of these disorders, typically the disorders’ symptoms need to have first appeared at some point in the person’s childhood.




• Asperger’s disorder
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD)
• Autistic disorder
Conduct disorder
• Disorder of written expression
• Encopresis
• Enuresis
• Expressive language disorder
• Mathematics disorder
• Mental retardation
Oppositional defiant disorder
• Pica
• Reading disorder
• Rett’s disorder
• Rumination disorder
Separation anxiety disorder
• Stereotypic movement disorder
• Stuttering
• Tourette’s disorder
• Transient tic disorder