Replacing anxious thoughts and fear beliefs

We teach children how to recognise the relationship between thoughts and feelings and how these influence their behaviours.  In an anxious context, children learn to identify the worried thoughts associated with feelings of anxiety and recognise how anxiety is associated with avoidant behaviours.  Children are then provided with new skills to alter their worried thoughts, by replacing them with realistic or helpful thoughts, which also help influence behaviours, by encouraging the child to approach the feared situations/items.  Clinically this is referred to as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and is considered the gold standard treatment of a range of emotional disorders.

Case Study:

Charlotte experienced anxiety when she was alone upstairs at home, and the rest of her family was downstairs.  Charlotte identified that her worried thoughts, ‘Someone might break into my bedroom’ or ‘I might fall in the bathroom and no one will hear me and I will be stuck’ were leading her to feel anxious and caused her to avoid being upstairs alone, even if it meant not being able to follow her beloved cat upstairs, or retrieve items that she needed from her bedroom.  It also meant that Charlotte’s mother had to wait outside the bathroom door when Charlotte showered to reduce her fear.  Using a series of ‘detective’ techniques, Charlotte was able to identify that the likelihood of a break in on the second floor was unlikely, particularly as she was also unlikely to be alone upstairs at night.  In addition, Charlotte was able to reflect that she had never fallen in the bathroom before and if she did, she would be able to shout out to her mother.  By focussing on these more realistic thoughts, Charlotte was able to practice staying upstairs alone for progressively longer periods of time, until her level of fear reduced significantly and she was able to retrieve items from her bedroom and use the bathroom independently without significant fear.
Replacing anxious thoughts

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