At the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Silicon Valley, we offer cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for children with specific phobias. Our approach with children is practical, goal-oriented, compassionate, and scientifically-based while focusing on your child’s individual needs. With our central location on Saratoga Avenue, the CBT Center serves children with phobias and their families in the Silicon Valley communities of San Jose, Saratoga, Mountain View, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Cupertino and Campbell.
What is a Specific Phobia in Children?
Many children have fears of specific objects. This only becomes a problem when the specific phobia is so intense and irrational that it interferes with your child’s functioning. A specific phobia is the intense, irrational fear of a specific object, such as a dog, or a situation, such as flying. Common childhood phobias include animals, storms, heights, water, blood, the dark, and medical procedures. If your child has a phobia, he/she will avoid situations or things that they fear, or endure them with anxious feelings, which can manifest as crying, tantrums, clinging, avoidance, headaches, and stomachaches. Unlike adults, children do not usually recognize that their fear is irrational.
Symptoms of Phobias in Children
- Extreme anxiety or panic response (e.g. crying, tantrums, somatic complaints) when confronted with the feared object or situation
- Avoidance of the feared object or situation that gets in the way of normal routine. For example, your child may be unable to engage in recreational activities, or have distressing dreams due to phobia
Cognitive Behavioral Model of Phobias for Children
The causes of phobias in children are not always clear. Some children develop a phobia after a specific triggering event (e.g. developing a fear of dogs after being bitten by one) or learn the fear from parents or other caregivers who have similar phobias. In the CBT model of phobias, it is not necessary (or that helpful) to determine the root cause of your child’s fear. The phobia is maintained by your child’s exaggerated beliefs about the dangerousness of the feared object or situation, his/her beliefs that they will not be able to cope with their fear, and avoidance or safety behaviors that prevent new learning. These beliefs and behaviors will be the focus of treatment.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Children with Phobias
CBT focuses on helping your child learn to identify the feelings and thoughts that maintain his/her fears, to cope with anxiety in new ways, and to confront the feared object or situation in a safe supportive environment. Your child will learn about common anxiety and panic symptoms and how avoidance of the feared object or situation maintains their phobia. After a thorough assessment of your child’s phobic responses, he/she will learn more effective ways to respond to worries and fears (e.g. positive self-talk, “brave” statements, calming strategies). Your child will then face his/her fears through exposure therapy. This may include imagining being around the feared object or situation, being exposed to objects that aren’t real (drawings, photos, plastic figures) and, eventually, confronting the real objects or situations. Your child’s therapist will usually start exposures in the office and may accompany your child to places where they can confront their fears in the real world if needed. You will also support you child in practicing these skills in “real life” situations outside of the office and providing reinforcement and encouragement as your child improves.
Common Goals of Cognitive Behavior Therapy with Children
- Reduce fear of the specific object or situation
- Develop healthy and realistic beliefs and expectations about the feared object or situation
- Reduce avoidance and safety behaviors that maintain the fear
- Increase comfort and independence in being in public environments
- Resume normal routines and participation in daily activities
Getting Help for Your Child’s Phobia
The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Silicon Valley specializes in therapy and counseling for phobias in children. We are located on the border of San Jose and Saratoga just a half mile from Highway 85 and the Saratoga Avenue exit. With our convenient location between highways 85 and 280, we serve the Silicon Valley communities of San Jose, Saratoga, Mountain View, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, Los Altos, Palo Alto, Cupertino and Campbell, CA. Contact us at (408) 384-8404 for more information on how we can help you and your child manage their phobias.