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Group Therapy for Children and Adolescents

Are You Worried About Your Child’s Wellbeing?

Maybe your child has fallen behind academically or expressed other problems at school, such as bullying or not having any friends. Maybe they have chronic emotional upsets that require persistent attention. At the Center for Mental Wellness, we offer group therapy for children and teens who are struggling with:

  ● Depression
  ● Anxiety and Phobias
  ● OCD

If your child appears to be struggling, and nothing you try seems to provide sustainable relief, there may be a larger issue at play, like depression or an anxiety disorder. Below we’ve listed some common symptoms of OCD, depression, and anxiety in children and teens. If you recognize these symptoms and are interested in learning more or seeking help, please call 858-350-4300 or email info@socalmentalwellness.com for more information.

Anxiety

Perhaps your child seems withdrawn or unable to relax. Does your child seem overly concerned about how others perceive them? Or overly perfectionistic? Or, maybe they are extremely stressed about an upcoming test or their homework. Even as they fixate on what might go wrong, they may avoid responsibilities by watching TV or spending excessive amounts of time online.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is a specific type of anxiety disorder. OCD symptoms in children and teens may include a preoccupation with germs, things being in their right order, or disturbing thoughts they can’t escape. Kids with OCD often have rituals and need to repeat certain behaviors to relieve anxiety. Maybe your child seems unable to control certain compulsions and feels embarrassed and overwhelmed.

Depression

Depression in children and teens can look different than in adults. Does your child struggle to move on from what they perceive as mistakes or shortcomings? Do they persistently seem down, irritable or withdrawn? Maybe you’ve noticed unhealthy eating or sleeping patterns or a lot of negative beliefs, such as feeling hopeless or not being good enough. With teen depression, your child may seem unmotivated to make positive changes.

Living with a child who is struggling with emotional or behavioral problems can be an isolating, troubling and distressing experience. While you desperately want to help him or her process and cope with pain, you may not know how to help or relate. Do you wish you had the tools to help your child feel and function better?

Your Child Is Not Alone

If your child is experiencing depression, OCD or anxiety symptoms, they are certainly not alone.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, as many as three percent of children ages 6 to 12, and eight percent of teens may have clinical depression.

According to Child Mind Institute, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders of adolescence. Nearly one in three adolescents (31.9 percent) will meet criteria for an anxiety disorder by the age of 18.

According to the National Library of Medicine, one to three percent of the adolescent population has OCD.

There are many reasons why children and adolescents develop these problems. Typically, kids continue to struggle with these issues because they have not learned appropriate tools for coping with their unique challenges. Sometimes, there’s a genetic component, and sometimes, they learn certain patterns from a parent or caretaker who struggles with OCD, anxiety, or depression symptoms.

As a parent, you want the best for your child. When they’re withdrawing, acting out or scared, you may desperately try to resolve the problem. However, by now, you may find that your efforts don’t lead to sustainable results. You may even accommodate your child in a way that prolongs or worsens the problem, especially if you struggle with your own mental health.

In these situations, parents oftentimes don’t know where to turn. If you find that’s true, what you’re feeling is completely normal. Common parenting strategies often don’t remedy anxiety, depression, or OCD, and your child’s symptoms are not your fault.

The good news is that help is available. With a qualified child or teen therapist, as well as a supportive group environment, your child can learn skills to reduce and alleviate symptoms.

Child and Teen Group Therapy Can Help Your Child Grow and Thrive

Group therapy has been shown in multiple research studies to be effective for depression, anxiety, and OCD among children and adolescents. In a group setting, your child can learn and practice new skills with other kids who are facing similar challenges. We teach your child specific skills in a safe, warm, compassionate, and collaborative environment.

Why is group therapy especially effective for kids and teens with anxiety, depression, and OCD? Children and adolescents with depression and anxiety often experience significant loneliness and believe something is “wrong” with them. In a group setting, they come to recognize how common depression, anxiety, and OCD really are among young people, and benefit from the support of their peers.

Each week, the group therapy focus is tailored to the needs of the kids. We put significant thought into planning each group session, so each group member receives maximum benefit.

In the group, the children and teens learn cognitive-behavioral skills together. These skills help your child recognize and alleviate distorted thinking. In other words, it teaches them to cope with and combat depressive and anxious tendencies in new and healthy ways.

Many children and adolescents have overcome anxiety and/or depression symptoms through group therapy. Your child may be surprised to learn how many other kids struggle with the same things they’re struggling with. Kids give each other support and encouragement as they all learn new tools and try out new behaviors that feel “scary” to them. In this environment, kids and teens are often more motivated to implement their newfound skills compared to individual therapy.

We’ve been working with kids and teens in group settings for almost 20 years and have specific training in child and teen anxiety and depression. That means we are able to maximize the benefits of peer support for kids who are shy or resistant to treatment, resulting in high success rates. Any child or teen who is willing to do the therapeutic work is likely to see improvement.

How We Form The Groups

At first, each child or teen completes an initial one-on-one evaluation to ensure they are a fit for the group. During this time, we go through your child’s history and symptoms. These groups are specifically made to create a supportive environment for all.

If you’ve tried individual therapy before to no avail, child or teen group therapy may be what your child needs to perform better, feel less alone, and really learn and implement new, healthier coping skills and ways of thinking.

You may still have questions or concerns about child and teen group therapy …

My child is embarrassed to talk with other kids about his/her problems so the idea of group therapy is scary.
The vast majority of children and teens will be resistant to the idea of group therapy at first. Especially if your child struggles with social anxiety, a group dynamic may seem really scary.

However, usually after trying it, kids are very happy they did. They say it’s not as scary as they expected, and that it’s more fun because they’re working with other kids. You can reassure your child that everyone else in the group is also struggling with something. They aren’t alone, and they don’t have to feel embarrassed.

My kid doesn’t want to come.
If you’re worried for your child’s wellbeing and he/she doesn’t want to come to therapy, it can be helpful to identify something your child really desires. Maybe your child wants more friends, to feel less worried, or do better in school. Find something that matters to your child and tell him/her that therapy can help with achieving that goal.

I’m worried a group format is not as effective as one-on-one therapy.
In the beginning, we undergo a thorough assessment to determine whether group therapy could benefit your child. Depending on what your child is struggling with, individual therapy may be more effective. However, there are many studies that suggest group therapy is effective for kids and teens who struggle with anxiety, depression, and OCD.

Group therapy is especially beneficial for children and teens who struggle socially, have been resistant to individual therapy, or would benefit from the encouragement and support of their peers. Group therapy is often times a good complement to individual therapy, as many of our clients do both.

Your Child or Teen Can Thrive

If you’re ready to help your child heal or would like to learn more about child and teen group therapy, please call 858-350-4300 or email info@socalmentalwellness.com for a free 15-minute phone consultation. Our offices are located in San Diego and Encinitas, CA.