Yoga and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Children and Youth with Anxiety
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Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses in the world. As many as one in four children will develop disordered anxiety; yet, many are either never diagnosed or are untreated, which can result in comorbid mental health diagnoses and poor health outcomes. For children and youth, anxiety can have significant implications for their behaviour, academics, social and emotional development, and can result in substance misuse and suicidality. Once assessed accurately, anxiety can be treated; it is most commonly done pharmacologically or through counselling using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). While both approaches are evidence-based and effective, medication is not ideal for children and the relapse rates of both are high. Yoga is a mind-body intervention that has calming effects on the nervous and neuroendocrine systems. It has been shown to have positive effects on practitioners, such as decreasing stress and anxiety and improving mood, attention, memory, self-regulation, and self-esteem; therefore, this paper explores the use of yoga as a complementary approach to CBT for managing anxiety in children and youth in the school setting. An eight-session yoga and CBT group has been developed and proposed for use with middle school children with moderate to high anxiety. The group is intended to be facilitated by school counsellors with the goal of helping students learn to be present, make choices, take action, create rhythms, and build confidence and coping skills as a way to address anxiety.