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Treatment for Adolescents

Children  |  Adolescents  |  College Students

The American Institute for Cognitive Therapy (AICT) is pleased to announce expanded child and adolescent therapy services. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a time-limited, solution-focused treatment. The goal of therapy is to provide children and their parents with coping skills to better manage difficult situations now and in the future. 


Adolescence is a formative period of intellectual, social, and emotional growth. Given the mounting responsibilities adolescents are typically confronted with in today’s environment, it is important they learn ways to prioritize their mental health in addition to their other obligations. If you are concerned that your adolescent is experiencing self-defeating thoughts, has difficulty controlling his or her emotions, or is engaging in problematic behaviors to the extent that it impairs their ability to function at school or interact with friends, family members, or authority figures, it may be worth pursuing a professional consultation.

At AICT we provide consultations to determine the type of support and tools that will help your adolescent learn ways to cope more effectively and improve their quality of life. Currently we offer individual and group therapy using cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy to address one or more of the following problems your adolescent may be experiencing:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger/Aggression
  • Difficulty Regulating Emotions
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Trichotillomania
  • Eating disorders
  • Body Image Concerns
  • Adolescent/Parent/Family Dilemmas
  • Substance Abuse
  • Self-Harm
  • Relationship Conflicts
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • School Refusal

Following an initial consultation with the parent(s) and the adolescent, the clinician will determine whether one of the following options are appropriate and will recommend a course of treatment.

Treatment Options

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adolescents

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a problem-focused, goal-oriented and proactive treatment approach, with particular emphasis on the present and future, as opposed to the past (although learned behaviors from past experiences may also be relevant). CBT is a form of psychotherapy based on the premise that thoughts, emotions and behaviors are interconnected. Treatment emphasizes identifying, evaluating and modifying dysfunctional thinking patterns and problematic behaviors to improve overall quality of life. An advantage of CBT is that it teaches strategies to effectively cope even as difficult situations change and evolve. Collaboration and psychoeducation are key elements in guiding adolescents to improved emotional well-being. CBT is offered in individual sessions and does not require group attendance.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for Adolescents

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) was originally developed for adults by Dr. Marsha Linehan, psychologist and researcher at the University of Washington, and later adapted for use with adolescents. This approach has been found to be an effective treatment for individuals with problems regulating emotions. AICT offers a comprehensive DBT program for adolescents and their parents. This treatment is for those who may be struggling with one or more of the following:

  • Difficulty Regulating Emotions
  • Intense Anxiety, Depression, Anger
  • Adolescent/Parent/Family Dilemmas
  • Substance Abuse
  • Self-Harm
  • Eating Disorders
  • Relationship Conflicts
  • Aggression
  • Confusion of Self

Individual DBT for Adolescents

Individual DBT for Adolescents is a treatment program designed to help adolescents become more knowledgeable and confident in their ability to: (1) understand and learn ways to manage overwhelming emotions, (2) effectively work through difficult situations, and (3) improve relationships that are important to maintain. For optimal treatment results, it is recommended that adolescents attend individual therapy sessions once a week while at the same time they and their parents attend the DBT Adolescent and Multi-Family Skills Training Group.

DBT Adolescent and Multi-Family Skills Training Group

Adolescents and their parents will attend a 1 ½ hour weekly skills groups for 16 weeks. The format is designed to teach adolescents and their parents a new and effective skill set organized in the following five modules: (1) Mindfulness, (2) Emotion Regulation, (3) Distress Tolerance, (4) Interpersonal Effectiveness, and (5) Walking the Middle Path. This group helps parents understand and respond to their adolescent, and effectively help their adolescent become more adaptive in managing day to day emotions and behaviors. The 16-week group, which is concurrent with individual therapy, is a 4 month commitment. Both the adolescent and their parents (in some instances one parent) are required to attend. New families will be invited to join the group when each new skill module is introduced, which occurs every 4-5 weeks.

The DBT Adolescent and Multi-Family Skills Training Group meets on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings 7:00 – 8:30 pm. New members will be able to join the group every 3-4 weeks.

Frequently asked questions about DBT

What can we expect from the group experience?
Many people have different ideas about what group therapy is like. DBT offers a structured group format and is often described by group members as a skills-based class. The group leader prioritizes the group to cover core topics to help identify problem areas and teach valuable skills to be more effective in everyday living. Homework is assigned and reviewed each week, and group members are strongly encouraged to participate throughout the discussion.

What happens if my adolescent has to miss more than 4 sessions/groups due to school, extracurricular activities, camp, or vacation? Or what if the parent(s) miss more than 4 groups due to outside obligations?
This is a common concern of many parents. The best approach is to make a best effort to attend weekly sessions/groups. If this is not realistic, it is best to speak with Dr. Horowitz to arrange for a tailored approach that will best accommodate your adolescent and family needs.

Can my adolescent participate in the group without attending individual therapy?
Unlike the CBT program, the DBT program requires attendance in both individual and group sessions.

What if my adolescent is currently in an inpatient facility or partial hospitalization? How do we make the transition to outpatient services?
Some of our clients have started treatment following hospitalization. Given the uniqueness of each case, it is best to speak directly with Dr. Horowitz about your adolescent’s circumstance to see if this is the appropriate level of care at this time.

What are other problems that are addressed in individual and group DBT for adolescents?

Other topics addressed in treatment include but are not limited to the following: poor self-image, peer pressure/bullying, trichotillomania, social isolation, academic difficulties resulting from emotional instability, romantic relationships, divorce, and sibling rivalry.

For additional questions or to schedule a consultation for DBT, please contact Dr. Melissa Horowitz or Dr. Susan Paula,  at (212) 308-2440 or email intake@cognitivetherapynyc.com.

Melissa D. Horowitz, Psy.D., specializes in working with adolescents, adults, couples and families. She is a formally trained cognitive behavioral therapist and has been intensively trained in DBT through Behavioral Tech and the Cognitive Behavioral Consultants of Westchester to treat adolescents and adults. Dr. Horowitz is sensitive to the particular needs of adolescents and the struggles they encounter in their developing years. In her work, she takes a nonjudgmental role and balances acceptance and change in helping her clients and their parents work toward a life worth living. Dr. Horowitz also supervises psychology externs in DBT and has presented on topics in DBT at local area hospitals.

Susan Trachtenberg Paula, Ph.D, is a New York State licensed psychologist with extensive experience in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and cognitive-behavioral play therapy.She works primarily with clients of all ages, from very young children to adults, and with families. Dr. Paula specializes in the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and emotional dysregulation in children and adults. She also treats and specializes in mood and anxiety disorders across the life span and in helping parents develop effective skills for managing difficult behavior in their children.

Helpful Resources

For more information on children and adolescents please see the following chapters that you can download below:

Helpful Links

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