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Pre-adolescence, also known as the preteen or “tween” years, can be loosely defined as the years between eight or nine to twelve or thirteen. The Child Mind Institute asserts that this is a time in a child’s life where monumental physical, cognitive, emotional, and social developmental shifts occur. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain that “mental disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, causing distress and problems getting through the day.” Child psychotherapy is a form of psychiatric treatment that can be effective in treating a wide range of issues from emotional and behavioral problems in young children, to mental health ailments in adolescents and young adults. There are several types of psychotherapy that involve different approaches, techniques, and interventions. 

CBT & How It Works

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a structured, short-term, goal-oriented form of psychotherapy. This therapeutic intervention aims to improve a child’s moods, anxiety, and behavior by examining confused or distorted patterns of thinking. Through CBT a child learns that their thoughts cause feelings and moods which can influence behavior. The steps of CBT include the following, provided by Psychology Today:

  1. Identify harmful thought patterns.
  2. Become aware of the emotions, thoughts, and beliefs connected to these harmful thought patterns.
  3. Distinguish inaccurate and/ or negative thinking that may be reinforcing these thought patterns.
  4. Replace this thinking with thoughts that result in more appropriate feelings and behaviors.

Research shows that CBT can be effective in treating a variety of conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety, etc.). Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is a specialized form of CBT that was developed to help treat children coping with traumatic experiences.

DBT-C & How It Works

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is an evidenced-based, multifaceted, rigidly structured psychotherapy approach. It is founded on the principals of cognitive behavioral therapy and blends Eastern mindfulness techniques (e.g., awareness, mindfulness and attentiveness to current situations and emotional experiences) to encourage acceptance and change. DBT for children (DBT-C) is an adapted version of standard DBT that is specifically geared towards treating pre-adolescent children. DBT for children and preadolescents relies on multiple modes of treatment including individual therapy, skills training, working directly with parents, and as-needed 24-hour phone coaching to provide additional support to children and their families. The main difference in DBT and DBT-C is that the treatment target hierarchy in DBT-C has been greatly expanded to incorporate emphasis on the parental role in attaining the child’s treatment goals.

DBT-C relies on the same principals, theoretical model, and therapeutic strategies of standard DBT. However, the DBT-C curriculum is re-framed in a way that considers and accommodates the developmental and cognitive levels of children and provides age-appropriate services. As is articulated in Behavioral Tech, the goal of DBT-C is to eliminate the “harmful transaction between a child and an environment and replace it with an adaptive pattern of responding to ameliorate presenting problems, as well as to reduce the risk of associated psychopathology in the future.” Through DBT-C a child will learn a variety of adaptive coping skills and effective problem-solving strategies. 

IPT & How It Works

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a therapeutic modality that is primarily used to help treat pre-adolescents that struggle with certain psychiatric disorders (e.g., depression, mood disorders, eating disorders, substance use disorder, etc.). Interpersonal therapy is split into three stages of treatment. It begins with the initial stage (diagnosis), the middle stage (preteen learning to make connections between how their relationships affect their moods), and the termination stage (transitioning out of therapy). Through interpersonal therapy a young person will learn to resolve and adjust unhealthy interpersonal problems, resulting in a symptomatic recovery.

Further Information and Support

For most of us, life can be very stressful, leading us to feel emotionally charged, which can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and getting stuck in a cycle of being burdened with negative thoughts. Navigating through the challenges and emotional turmoil of life can be overwhelming, but you do not have to go through it alone. Engage Treatment is a Joint Commission Accredited professional psychological practice. We specialize in treating children, teens, and young adults struggling with depression and anxiety through community-focused treatment plans that incorporate a carefully selected combination of therapeutic interventions. Our compassionate, multidisciplinary practitioners are devoted to providing the highest quality of care that helps ignite positive change and enables clients to reach optimal health and well-being. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer questions and provide you with any additional information. Feel free to call us at 805-497-0605 or email us at [email protected]. You are also welcomed to get in touch by filling out our contact form. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you.

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