The Wall Street Journal: Exposure Therapy & Teen Anxiety

Introduction for article: A Better Way to Treat Anxiety

Youth struggling with social anxiety disorder may have a new treatment option aimed at reducing anxiety and fear quickly through a combination of exposure therapy and parental coaching.

Wall Street Journal contributor Laura Lando reports on advances in the field of childhood anxiety disorder treatment in the article A Better Way to Treat Anxiety: For Teens, Therapy Turns Parents Into ‘Exposure Coaches,’ Not Protectors.

An emerging therapy approach being researched at Mayo Clinic and other institutions builds on some of the best treatment options for tackling phobias and anxiety as well as for working with youth in a family context.

This approach emphasizes exposure to feared stimuli early on in treatment, with small steps up an exposure hierarchy of increasingly feared situations, with the goal of helping motivated youth learn to overcome their anxiety and recognize that what “they see isn’t so frightening.” Exposure is a classic technique used in the treatment of anxiety and phobias. However, what makes this treatment approach novel is the emphasis on very early, intense exposure, versus introducing exposure later in treatment if at all, and the emphasis on training parents as ‘exposure coaches’ for their anxious children. All too often even good-intentioned parents may end up reinforcing their children’s fears in efforts to be supportive. This new treatment teaches parents how to effectively support their children’s efforts to overcome the debilitating effects of their anxiety disorders. This anxiety treatment shows great promise based on ongoing research findings and would be a worthwhile exploration for teens with social anxiety, parents, and clinicians.

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