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Mayo Clinic Minute: Helping kids with anxiety through exposure therapy

Deb Balzer, Mayo Clinic News Network on

Published in Health & Fitness

It's normal for kids to feel anxious sometimes. When these feelings get too big and help is needed, experts often suggest cognitive behavioral therapy. According to a recent study at Mayo Clinic, guiding kids through parent-coached exposure therapy can be more effective.

Dr. Stephen Whiteside, a psychologist with the Mayo Clinic Children's Center and lead author of the study, says exposure therapy helps kids face their fears more effectively than talk therapy, often requiring fewer sessions.

"One of the most common fears that we see is social anxiety disorder," says Dr. Whiteside.

He says it's more than just a child being shy. For instance, they may fear people are going to judge them if they make mistakes.

"It makes it very hard for them to meet new kids and make friends. They're very nervous to talk in class or ask for help when they need it. They don't want to join activities because they're just so shy and afraid that something bad is going to happen," he says.

When exposure therapy is appropriate

If it is affecting daily life, exposure therapy may help.

 

"And so the treatment involves helping kids learn through their own experience that what they're afraid of is not as dangerous or not as bad as they think it's going to be," explains Dr. Whiteside.

He says kids will be more successful if they have someone to help them, typically a parent.

"Parent-coach exposure therapy is simply working with kids and parents together to help them learn how to help the child face their fears," Dr. Whiteside says.

The ultimate goal with exposure therapy is simple.

"We help kids face their fears very early in treatment so that we can help them get better as quickly as possible," says Dr. Whiteside.


©2024 Mayo Clinic News Network. Visit newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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