Turning Anxiety Treatment into Play

How Role-Playing Can Help Kids Face Their Anxiety

Rich Simon

Seven-year-old Emily is continually nervous and her anxiety is keeping her from enjoying summer camp, sleepovers with friends, and after-school activities. Her parents don’t know what to do, and even her therapist is worried that Emily’s anxiety is starting to define too much her integral sense of self.

Treating anxiety in kids takes a creative, often playful approach, says Lynn Lyons, author of Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents.


Lynn’s preferred approaches for addressing anxiety in children are games and role-playing exercises. For example, by assuming the character of the Anxiety Monster and throwing in a cartoonish voice, a therapist and child can make anxiety seem less frightening and easier to grapple with.

“Sometimes anxiety can feel all-consuming, like it’s running the show,” says Lynn in this brief video clip. “But in reality, it’s just one part of these kids.” Be open to getting carried away with a little fun, she says, and your clients will follow. Lynn explains that with her role-playing approach, “I’ll be so persistent in getting them to react differently. We’ll go on for five minutes, ten minutes of me saying, ‘Please! I beg you, listen to me!’ The kids get so animated and there’s so much energy. That’s what we need when we work with anxious kids—action.”

In the Networker Webcast series A New Road Map for Working with Kids and Teens, Lynn shares tips for making your practice more appealing to children and their worried parents. “Momentum is critical,” writes Lynn in “Taming the Wild Things,” her recent Networker feature article. “We have to move fast to give them a taste of victory over the anxiety bugaboo—and have fun doing it.”

A New Road Map for Working with Kids and Teens
Series Available Now

Click here for full course details

Topic: Parenting | Anxiety/Depression | Children/Adolescents

Tags: anxiety in children | anxiety treatment | kids | Lynn Lyons | parents | teens | therapist | treating anxiety

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2 Comments

Wednesday, June 26, 2019 10:08:51 AM | posted by Anxiety Therapy Los Angeles CA
This is an interesting approach to treating children with anxiety. Thanks for sharing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016 2:33:32 PM | posted by Ad De
Play is an option that i didn't consider for my anxiety infographic. Thanks for your enlightened write up.