Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) For Children: Types, Uses, And How It Works

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy CBT For Children Types, Uses, And How It Works

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Cognitive behavior therapy for children mainly focuses on helping them validate their thoughts, feelings, and emotional reactions that might stem from trauma or any suppressed emotional distress (1). It is beneficial for children with mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, anger issues, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for children and teens is generally designed to last 10-20 sessions, and the therapy often includes the therapist and the child. However, it may also be done in close coordination with the parents and caretakers (2).

Read more about the types, techniques, and different cognitive behavioral therapy approaches for children in this post.

Main Goals Of Cognitive Behavior Therapy For Children

Cognitive behavior therapy is a kind of talk therapy wherein children can talk about their feelings and fears. The main goals of cognitive behavioral therapy techniques are to help children (2)

  • Rationalize their thoughts and be able to differentiate between good and bad thoughts.
  • Improve their behavior and outlook towards others.
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • Learn to be aware of their thoughts and evaluate whether or not they are logical.

Types Of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Behavioral issues and mental health disorder symptoms may differ among children and so would be the treatment procedures. The various types of cognitive-behavioral therapy available for children include (3)

  • Individual therapy

This type of therapy involves a one-on-one interaction between the child and the doctor or therapist concerned and focuses on the child’s issues and challenges. For example, individual therapy is proven to help children deal with mental health disorders, substance abuse, depression, and anxiety disorders.

  • Group cognitive behavior therapy

Group CBT involves children of similar age groups going through the same issues. It allows children to bond with others who have similar issues and have meaningful relations, which can further improve their coping skills. This therapy is often recommended for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or substance abuse.

  • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy

Trauma-focused CBT is usually done in up to 20 sessions and is primarily aimed at helping the child recover from trauma and associated issues such as emotional distress or generalized anxiety. However, it is also important for the parents to attend these sessions as it can improve your interactions with the child and support them better.

  • Cognitive behavior therapy paired with family-based behavioral treatment

This type of treatment mainly involves parents acting as role models for their children. As a result, the children pick up on the habits and behavior that the parents show in their day-to-day lives.

Techniques Used In Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy includes a variety of therapeutic techniques to help the child process their feelings and emotions. Some of the techniques that are adopted for cognitive behavior therapy are as follows (4).

  • Cognitive modification: Cognitive modification involves identifying negative thoughts about oneself and correcting them with the help of specific positive self-affirming thoughts and statements.
  • Problem-solving: Children are taught techniques for identifying, analyzing, and assessing the underlying reasons for a behavioral problem and finding possible solutions for them.
  • Relaxation: Techniques for mental and physical relaxation, such as progressive muscle relaxation and meditation are taught to reduce psychological stress.
  • Stress management techniques: Several strategies are taught to reduce the levels of stress and anxiety in children

Conditions For Which Cognitive Behavior Therapy Can Help

Behavioral or emotional disorders can cause long-term problems in children, adversely affecting their health and well-being and those of the parents and other family members.

Research suggests that cognitive behavior therapy works well for the following mental disorders (5) .

  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Anxiety
  • ADHD
  • Disruptive behavior disorder
  • Different types of fears/phobias

Effectiveness Of Cognitive Behavior Therapy On Children

Research suggests that cognitive-behavioral therapy helps in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in children. Children who undergo cognitive behavioral therapy sessions at an early stage to overcome emotional stress-related disorders benefit from it towards the later stages of life (6).

Cognitive behavior therapy helps improve children’s skills, which is highly beneficial for them in the long run. Children learn to deal with their issues and problems and face them without acting out and feeling overwhelmed. Thus, it is important for children dealing with certain mental health conditions or social anxiety to attend cognitive behavior therapy sessions as it can help them change their way of thinking and also improve their quality of life.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Therapy to improve children’s mental health.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: What You Need To Know.
  3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
  4. Falk Leichsenring et al.; (2006); Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: Techniques Efficacy and Indications.
  5. Therapy To Improve Children’s Mental Health.
  6. Matthijs Oud et al.; (2019); Effectiveness of CBT for children and adolescents with depression: A systematic review and meta-regression analysis.

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Sanjana Bhattacharjee

Sanjana did her post graduation in Applied Microbiology from Vellore Institute of Technology, India. Her interest in science and health, combined with her passion to write made her convert from a scientist to a writer. She believes her role at MomJunction combines the best of both worlds as she writes health-based content based on scientific evidence. Sanjana is trained in classical... more