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4 min read

CBT for Teens With Anxiety: Information for Parents

teenager with anxiety

Key Takeaways:

  • While teens have a lot to be justifiably anxious about, it's certainly possible for them to develop an unhealthy level of anxiety that may indicate a deeper problem
  • CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, can be an effective therapy for teenagers with anxiety
  • There are a few things to know for parents with children in therapy, including regarding confidentiality and your child's rights.

Teenagers, if we're honest, have a lot to be anxious about.

Between keeping their grades up, starting to think about post-high school career moves or education, fitting in with ever-changing friend groups, and often working after school, a teenager's life is constantly shifting - all while they're going through periods of intense physiological and psychological changes.

Some anxiety, especially in this period of life, is natural and healthy. But too much anxiety - or anxiety with no discernible cause - can be an indication of an underlying problem.

Luckily, mental health professionals dedicate time and resources towards making significant improvements in the way we treat adolescents and children.

One such improvement is cognitive behavioral therapy for teens. Cognitive behavioral therapy, often shortened to CBT, is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that revolves around the identification and restructuring of negative and unhealthy thought patterns.

This article will address several of the most common questions that parents have when it comes to CBT for teens:

What kinds of therapists do CBT?

Do I need a child and family specialist?

Am I allowed to attend sessions?

Am I allowed to know what was said in sessions?

How can CBT help with adolescent anxiety?

What other therapies are effective for teenagers?

CBT For Teens in Austin

What kinds of therapists do CBT?

Because cognitive behavioral therapy is so effective, nearly all therapists have two fundamental levels of expertise about it"

  • Nearly all therapists know how CBT works and, to varying degrees, how to administer it
  • Nearly all therapists who don't offer CBT have referrals for other professionals who do.

In short, CBT is easy to find. Just do a search for licensed therapists in your area, and you will likely find several who list it among their offered treatments.

Now, when it comes to finding the right therapist, you'll need to refine your search a bit.

Do I need a child and family specialist?

It usually doesn't hurt to find one for your teen!

Depending on your child's age and specific symptoms, they may be able to see a therapist who does not specialize in children and adolescents.

If you have been recommended by a physician or a trusted friend to a therapist who offers CBT, you should double check that they are comfortable seeing adolescent patients before booking an appointment.

Some therapists don't specifically mention that they do CBT for teens, but don't have a problem with it. Others prefer, for one reason or another, not to take on adolescent patients. It just depends on their own availability and comfort level.

If you want to avoid any confusion, you can certainly find a child and family therapist who does specialize in treating adolescents with CBT.

From a practical standpoint, too, it's reasonable to assume that a therapist who specializes in treating teens has generally more experience with teenagers like yours than a therapist who does not.

As cliche as it sounds, the best therapist for your teen is the one they trust the most.

Am I allowed to attend sessions?

The practical answer to this question usually depends on the age of your child.

For teenagers aged 13 to 18, treatment will usually consist mostly of individual sessions between your teenager and the therapist.

The reason for this is medical: often, teenagers are in the process of developing a stronger sense of self. Therapists for teens often find that allowing parents into sessions may make them less productive.

In Texas, minors must obtain consent from a parent before starting mental health treatment (except in some cases relating to abuse or suicidal ideation.) This means that you do have the final say in whether or not your child receives treatment from a given therapist. If you want to be present in every session, you can legally dictate that your child go to a therapist who will allow this.

Note, however, that having this attitude towards your child's treatment may be detrimental to the actual goal, which is their mental health.

Am I allowed to know what was said in sessions?

Children and adolescents generally do not have the same right to privacy that adults do. It's totally legal for your teen's therapist to tell you what they said in a session.

But most therapists will request some level of confidentiality for the benefit of your child.

If your child is in danger of harming themselves or others, your therapist may have a legal obligation to inform you.

For more information about specific therapy laws in Texas, consult state documentation or a legal professional.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

How can CBT help with adolescent anxiety?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy uses four general steps in order to reduce the symptoms of teen anxiety.

Step #1: Identifying External Factors in Your Child's Life

The first step in CBT for teens - and indeed most forms of therapy in general - is an exploration of any internal factors that may be causing or contributing to symptoms.

Many mental health disorders are caused by physiological symptoms, but they can also be caused or exacerbated by things like divorce, moving to a new city, the death of a loved one, or struggling in academics or social life.

The therapist will work with your teenager to determine which external factors are impacting their mental health, and take them into account during the rest of the treatment.

Step #2: Cognitive and Emotional Awareness

The second part of CBT treatment for teenagers involves fostering your child's sense of awareness about the way they feel and think, as well as how the two relate.

The therapist will talk through your child’s typical thought processes, and instruct them on how that thought process may be influencing emotions and vice versa. They will also demonstrate certain patterns of thought that seem to be recurring.

Step #3: Isolating Unhealthy Patterns

Once the therapist has a general understanding of how your child thinks and feels, they will begin to isolate and point out any unhealthy behaviors, thoughts, and emotions.

The therapist will point out logical fallacies or unhealthy trains of thought and foster your child's own awareness of them.

Step #4: Cognitive Restructuring

Lastly, your child's therapist will help them change these unhealthy ways of thinking and feeling over time so that the anxiety symptoms diminish.

While CBT for teens can vary depending on our child's specific case, the above steps are generally considered central to therapy.

What other therapies are effective for teenagers?

Most other therapies that professionals may recommend for your teenager are offshoots of CBT, including:

  • Emotionally-focused therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Exposure therapy

When you engage a therapist, ask them about your child's options for treatments. Usually, therapists will start with one form of therapy and, if deemed necessary, transition to another if it's best for your child.

CBT For Teens in Austin

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level anxiety therapists is on hand to provide industry-leading CBT for your child.

Schedule an appointment today or call us to be matched with the right therapist for your child.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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