Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Oppositional Defiant Disorder

By Laura Agadoni

Because most children and adolescents, at times, can be difficult to manage, parents may wonder if their child's behavior is part of normal childhood development or if the child has oppositional defiant disorder. For the child with ODD, aggressive, angry behaviors are the norm and they happen outside the home with other authority figures, not just with the parents. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help treat children with ODD.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

If parents suspect their child has ODD, a trip to a trained therapist is in order, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one treatment method that may help your child or teen.The behavioral therapist will teach your child how to substitute good behaviors for bad ones.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is both family therapy and individual therapy for the child with ODD. While the entire family is going to learn the methods, the child learns individual techniques from the therapist. The therapist teaches the child how to cope with tough situations. Often, the child has no empathy for how her reactions affect others, and she will learn that in therapy too.

The therapist will first study the ways in which the parents interact with the child. When the therapist discovers what the problem areas are, she will help the parent write up a contract that the parent and child will both follow. This contract will be specific in which negative behaviors the child must stop and which behaviors the parents will grant rewards for. The contract will be specific as to exactly what the negative consequences and positive rewards will be. Transparency is the goal.

Positive Goals

At first, the child or teen with ODD may only act in positive ways to get the reward. However, the goal will be to get the child to change his behavior on his own, for his own gratification. For example, if your child regularly acts out with his peer group, resulting in his having few or no friends, once he starts to exhibit positive behaviors, he may get some new friends. Getting friends will motivate him, rather than parental rewards.