Most of my time is spent completing evaluations, which I love and am passionate about. But I still reserve a little time in my schedule for therapy because it is so rewarding to see children/adolescents and families make progress. In therapy, I primarily work with children to help them overcome their fears and worries. I recently came across an app that I love called “MindShift.”
I have realized that children and adolescents are far more motivated to complete “homework” and activities when it means that they get to use their phone or some form of technology. There are so many apps out there that can be great resources to help your child. The “Mindshift” app is one of my favorites and here is why:
1) The app focuses on a cognitive behavioral approach to anxiety and treatment. What is a cognitive behavioral approach? It is a scientific approach to the treatment of anxiety that has been well-researched and found to be effective in treating anxiety in children, adolescents, and adults. When we are anxious, it affects our thoughts, feelings, and our behaviors. For instance, if I am a child with separation anxiety, I might have the thought, “A burglar is going to break into our house, steal our belongings, and kill me and my family.” This highly upsetting thought then leads to significant anxiety symptoms (e.g., increased heart rate, trouble breathing, tummy troubles, etc.). The child then engages in certain behaviors like clinging to parents, refusing to be left alone in a room, or refusing to sleep alone in their bedroom.
2) The “Anxiety 101” section is filled with useful and very accurate information on anxiety. It provides psychoeducation on what anxiety is, how it develops, and when it is a problem. It also indicates that avoidance of anxiety makes anxiety worse in the long run, and the only way to truly overcome any anxiety is to “face the things you fear” through exposure. Exposure involves slowly and repeatedly facing your fears until they no longer are feared anymore; although, it isn’t always that simple. You first must learn coping strategies before you start to face fears.
3) It has a “Check Yourself” section to rate your anxiety level in different situations as well as your symptoms. I do A LOT of anxiety checking in therapy and evaluations. It is what helps me assess how anxious a child is feeling in various situations and is a great teaching tool for patients to learn that their anxiety is actually decreasing in situations. It is also great for parents to know how their children are feeling. Many times, parents see their children becoming angry and oppositional in situations. This might be a sign that they are feeling anxious. Having an easy tool for children to rate their anxiety and provide feedback on their feelings can be helpful.
4) The “Thinking Right” section provides several realistic ways of thinking about common anxiety experiences. For instance, children with general worry have problems dealing with uncertainty in situations. An example might be, “I won’t beat myself up for having worries. Everyone has them,” or “Most of my worries are exaggerated or very unlikely to ever come true.” Though these can be helpful starting points, it is much more effective when we each come up with our own realistic thoughts to challenge our fears There is a place for that in the app!
5) The “Chill Out” Tools area has “Mindful Strategies” that is wonderful. It is a woman with a lovely accent that talks you through a mindfulness script. This easily allows children/adolescents to listen the scripts on a regular basis outside of the therapy session to practice these skills. There is a body scan and a mindful breathing script. I prefer the mindfulness scripts in the treatment of anxiety. Why, you ask? Because sometimes other types of relaxation techniques can serve as distraction methods to avoid anxiety symptoms and, in the long run, can inadvertently result in maintaining anxiety. Mindfulness, on the other hand, teaches children and adolescents that they don’t need to control their worry thoughts. They notice them but do not control them. They redirect their thoughts and there is no judgment of worry thoughts. This is important because anxiety often becomes worse the more we try to control it, stop it, or avoid it. Thus, mindfulness techniques can be useful in managing frequent and day-to-day worry and anxiety.
Give the MindShift app a try for you or your child and let me know what you think!