Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Schools: A Vital Tool for Supporting Students’ Mental Health

By Dr. Corey Milsap, PsyD, LPC, CSP, LSP, LMHC

Children naturally experience moments of worry or sadness. However, when these emotions become prolonged or intense due to conditions like anxiety or depression, they become a cause for concern.

Understanding the Rise in Child Anxiety and Depression A worrying trend has emerged, showing a rise in the rates of anxiety and depression among children. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from 2016 to 2019 indicates that about 9.4% (or 5.8 million) of children between 3-17 years old were diagnosed with anxiety. Additionally, 4.4% (around 2.7 million) in the same age range were diagnosed with depression.

Such conditions can disrupt a child’s daily life and might continue into their adulthood. This continuation often leads to higher risks associated with suicide, impulsive behaviors, teenage pregnancies, behavioral disorders, delinquency, and declining academic performances. It’s vital that caregivers and educators play an active role in addressing this issue.

Enter School-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy The Community Preventive Services Task Force, an organization dedicated to improving community health through evidence-based findings, endorses school-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The purpose of these programs is to equip students with tools to tackle problems, manage their emotions, and nurture productive thought and behavior patterns to mitigate symptoms of anxiety and depression. They categorize the programs into two types:

  1. Universal Programs: Suitable for all school-age children and adolescents, whether or not they show symptoms of anxiety or depression.
  2. Targeted Programs: Tailored for youngsters who exhibit a heightened risk for anxiety and depression.

CBT Implementation in the School Environment Qualified school personnel, like school psychologists, trained teachers, and nurses, along with external mental health professionals, administer these therapeutic interventions. They follow a specific protocol while interacting with students, either one-on-one or in group sessions.

The Significance of School-based CBT Recognizing and addressing heightened feelings of fear, worry, or sadness in children is imperative. Educators and parents have the responsibility to offer the necessary support. School-based CBT stands out as a pivotal tool in this endeavor. Ensuring that educational institutions have access to these programs ensures that students are better equipped to navigate their emotions and cultivate essential problem-solving skills. This can, in turn, help reduce instances and severity of anxiety and depression among our youth.


Anxiety and depression in children: Get the facts. (n.d.). Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Implementation Resources for CPSTF Findings | (2021, November 16). CDC. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Programs. (n.d.). The Community Guide.

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