What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment shown to be effective for chronic pain and illness, anxiety, depression, sleep, and other issues. It is a practical technique that teaches coping skills, or new and more effective ways of dealing with stressors.


CBT targets both sides of pain and illness by identifying and resolving stressors that trigger pain, and by learning coping skills to manage pain after it starts.


CBT focuses on the relationship between thoughts (what's going on in our heads), feelings (emotions and physical sensations), and behaviors (how we act). For example, the thought, "I'm broken, I'll never get better" can trigger feelings of sadness, hopelessness and frustration. In kids and teens, emotions also manifest physically - for example, getting "butterflies" before giving a talk at school, or getting a tension headache when you're stressed.  This can exacerbate underlying medical conditions. Subsequently, these thoughts, negative emotions and physical symptoms can lead to behaviors like staying in bed, missing school and isolating from friends - which ultimately makes kids feel worse. 

Research shows that the experience of pain is mediated by multiple factors, including stress/anxiety, mood and attention. High stress, high anxiety, poor sleep and low mood actually make pain feel worse. The converse is also true: being relaxed, happy and distracted can help pain feel less bad.


CBT addresses negative emotions like depression and anxiety, helps challenge and change negative self-talk, and replaces unhealthy behaviors with healthier ones. CBT helps teens develop strategies to cope with pain and ways to take control when pain or illness seems to be in charge. CBT also addresses activity reduction - a common result of pain and illness - and helps your child learn to take back her life, so that she can return to school and the activities she loves. CBT is a collaborative, goal-oriented approach, which means that we work together to solve problems and achieve your family's goals.