We sat down with In Step Director, Cathi Cohen, LCSW, CGP to talk to her about her new group for elementary school-aged children.

Why did you decide to lead a group to help kids deal with anxiety?

Anxiety is the number one psychological problem impacting children and teens today. For over 30 years, I have worked with clients of all ages who suffer from it. In some cases, it is debilitating. It is human nature to avoid things that make us uncomfortable. With anxiety, this is especially true. Anyone who has had a panic attack can speak to the desire to avoid it at all costs. Here is the tricky part; the worst thing you can do for anxiety is to avoid the cause of it. Therein lies the hard work. Studies indicate that one-on-one therapy with anxious children is very beneficial, but they also strongly recommend the treatment of anxiety needs to involve family members. At In Step, we specialize in group therapy because we know that groups offer children and their parents the support, modeling, learning, and practice needed for children to make significant change.

As a parent, how will I be involved in the group?

Every group we do at In Step involves the parents. For some, you get feedback at the end of each group session. For our Stepping Stones groups, you are in a concurrent group to learn the skills they need to be social skills coaches.
For this anxiety group, we will work through three modules to address anxiety as it pertains to the body, thoughts, and behaviors. At the beginning of each module, you will meet to learn about the issues your child will be working on in the coming weeks. You will be given tools to practice the techniques and will have the opportunity to work on them with me, my co-leader, and other parents. This process will lay the groundwork to foster success at home.

What can participants hope to gain from being a group member?

That’s the big question. Always. I guess I would start by saying that my belief is that change happens slowly, with practice, support and consistency. We are going to work in group for 14 weeks on behaviors that have had years to develop. The good news is that kids are spongy and by agreeing to participate, our parents are dedicated.
Our goals are going to be to help the children understand their feelings, thoughts and symptoms. Then we approach them with tools like relaxation techniques, cognitive restructuring and exposure therapy.
As the parent of an anxious child, you live with daily doubts about things like when to push her to go to school with a stomachache and when to let her stay home. Parents will work in this group to get a better understanding of how their child is feeling and what actions they can take together to improve the quality of their family life.


Cathi Cohen will be leading an informational session for parents about her new group on Saturday, April 18th in Fairfax at noon. Please RSVP by clicking here.