Copyright Patterson Psych Group - Providing Counseling & Therapy in Gastonia and Asheville, Erin B. Patterson, LPCS -- Gastonia, NC. All Rights Reserved.


Treatment for adolescents

We primarily use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for adolescents (ages 12-18).

CBT is a type of therapy that places emphasis on our thoughts and how those affect our emotions and behaviors. CBT is not a specific technique but incorporates a variety of similar techniques to bring about the achievement of therapeutic goals. 

The National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists points out the following factors uniting the various strands of CBT: 

  1. Philosophy of personal responsibility -- the belief that a person's feelings and behaviors result not from external influences (such as people and events), but rather from one's own thoughts.
  2. Focus on time limitations -- The NACBT reports that CBT patients receive on average of 16 sessions. (*The number can vary depending upon the client's participation and the willingness of the client to incorporate the techniques being learned*)
  3. Collaboration -- the role of the therapist is to learn what the client wants out of life and then help the client achieve those goals. For adolescents, sometimes the goal is that of the parent or treatment team to reduce negative or undesirable behaviors. CBT is an effective approach to those types of goals as well.
  4. A basis in the education model -- The objective of CBT isn't to "just talk," but rather to help clients recognize unhealthy thought patterns & learn new & more productive means of reacting to life events.
  5. Structure & direction -- CBT therapists teach clients how to think & behave in more acceptable & effective ways through teaching instead of "telling them" or "directing them" as to what to do.

How Can it help?

Research supports the effectiveness of play therapy with children experiencing a wide variety of social, emotional, behavioral, and learning problems, including: children whose problems are related to life stressors, such as divorce, death, relocation, hospitalization, chronic illness, assimilate stressful experiences, physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, and natural disasters (Reddy, Files-Hall & Schaefer, 2005).

Play therapy helps children:

  • Become more responsible for behaviors and develop more successful strategies.
  • Develop new and creative solutions to problems.
  • Develop respect and acceptance of self and others.
  • Learn to experience and express emotion.
  • Cultivate empathy and respect for thoughts and feelings of others.
  • Learn new social skills and relational skills with family.
  • Develop self-efficacy and thus a better assuredness about their abilities.

What can CBT be used for?

CBT has been researched to be effective in treating following problems/disorders faced by children & adolescents:

  • Behavioral problems;
  • Depression;
  • Self-harm/mutilation;
  • Anxiety disorders;
  • Separation anxiety;
  • Avoidant disorder;
  • Overanxious disorder;
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder;
  • Phobias;
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder & trauma;
  • Conduct disorder;
  • Distress due to medical procedures;
  • Recurrent abdominal pain; and
  • Physical complaints not explained by a medical condition.


Child-centered play therapy is for children ages 3-12.

Play therapy is to children what counseling is to adults. Play therapy utilizes play, children's natural medium of expression, to help them express their feelings more easily through toys instead of words.

Association for Play Therapy (APT) defines play therapy as "the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties & achieve optimal growth & development."

In the textbook Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship (2nd ed.), Landreth (2002) defined child-centered play therapy:

"A dynamic interpersonal relationship between a child (or person of any age)

and a therapist trained in play therapy procedures who provides selected play

materials and facilitates the development of a safe relationship for the child

(or person of any age) to fully express and explore self (feelings, thoughts,

experiences, and behaviors) through play, the child's natural medium of

communication, for optimal growth and development." (p. 16)

Explaining play therapy to children should be done in appropriate language for their developmental level. Dr. Dee Ray's Introduction to Play Therapy for Children video introduces play therapy to children:

*Created by: Dee Ray, PhD, LPC-S, NCC, RPT-S, Professor-Counseling Program, Director-Child and Family Resource Clinic, University of North Texas 

Dr. Ray also created a video for introducing play therapy to parents: