I see people of all ages in my practice, but when I work with kids I am especially eager to help them get well quickly. We want anxiety to pass by, to be a struggle a kid feels successful about overcoming, not a life-long burden. Our work is gratifying but also stressful. Be sure to take some time yourself to use mindfulness and relaxation – these skills are are not just for our clients!
If you have seen any of the blogs or videos by AnxietyTraining.com, you know that the first step in treating anxiety or OCD is education, and the second is ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention.) See, for example, our blog: https://anxietytraining.com/training/climbing-over-obstacles-in-exposure-therapy/
There is no doubt – being brave, facing fears, and willingly doing exposures are vital to helping kids get well from anxiety and OCD. Once I have a client and their family doing exposures regularly, I find that adding mindfulness and relaxation can help them improve even more.
These can be simple skills to work on with your clients: go for a mindful walk together, noticing the things you can see, the feeling of the air, and the sounds as you go. The goal is to be present in the here and now, which is very difficult when anxiety and OCD are loud in a client’s mind. Another great relaxation exercise is sitting with eyes closed and imagining a warm light shining down to relax you. The light starts on your head, and moves down your body, letting you relax each part in tern.
I like to record relaxation or mindfulness exercises I do with clients, so they can practice them at home. An 11-year-old I saw this week reported on his practice using a relaxation exercise we recorded the previous week in our session. He noticed that he had a much easier time settling his busy mind and going to sleep after he and his mother listened to the recording together as part of his bedtime routine. This was a big success for this anxious child and his loving but tired mom as well.
Apps offer a nice bridge to help a client and his or her family practice these important skills. Parentingchaos.com has a helpful list of 15 mindfulness and relaxation apps for kids with anxiety. The list is useful for all kids, but it is especially focused on children with Autism. Take a look and see if you can find something to help with a client you are working with now.