A pioneering program for children and teens with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), anxiety, or tic disorders has been established at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The Pediatric OCD, Anxiety, and Tic Disorders Program, or POCAT, includes a specialized clinic in Manhattan, along with an intensive and unique summer-camp style program for children and adolescents at the hospital's Westchester campus in White Plains, New York.

As one of the only programs of its kind in the New York area, POCAT is being directed by pediatric psychologist Dr. Shannon M. Bennett and psychiatrist Dr. Justin Mohatt to treat young patients with individually-tailored therapies and treatments. Children needing outpatient services can receive therapy and treatment at the clinic in Manhattan, while those needing more intensive services will be invited to attend the summer program in July at the White Plains location for one or two week sessions.

POCAT Program Addresses Specific Issues

Anxiety, including generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, social phobia, panic disorder and specific phobias, affects up to 20% of children. Separation anxiety disorder, defined by excessive anxiety when away from a parent or home, affects 4%t of children. OCD and tic disorders are seen in roughly 1-3% of children. Many youngsters have overlapping symptoms and suffer from more than one of these disorders. POCAT's goal is to address children's complex needs by providing comprehensive treatment options.

Children with anxiety disorders, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder and phobias, experience excessive yet uncontrollable worries that interfere with their academic, social and family life. Other mental health conditions, such as depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may also be present. Panic attacks in children and adults are characterized by sudden and brief periods of extreme fear and anxiety, triggering physical symptoms such as sweating, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

Pediatric OCD patients are preoccupied with persistent and repetitive fears of impending danger and harm. Typical obsessions include fear of germs, scary thoughts and images, or nagging and ongoing worries of losing meaningless items or of things being out of order. The lack of control over the obsessions and their relentless nature often contribute to the anxiety.

Children may engage in compulsions, which are repetitive rituals or routines, in an attempt to ward off the perceived threat or fear caused by their obsessions. While they initially alleviate the anxiety provoked by the obsessions, however, compulsions only offer temporary relief and ultimately worsen OCD symptoms.

Customized Treatments for Every Child

The summer program at the hospital's Westchester branch will offer customized treatments to meet children's varying needs with services such as relaxation training, behavioral therapy and new approaches to manage mental health conditions. Children and teens will attend morning and afternoon therapy sessions five days a week for one to two weeks. Program organizers consider summer an ideal time to facilitate treatment since school schedules do not interfere, and families from further away can travel to the site.

Parents will be involved in the process, receiving ongoing feedback about specific skills being taught and progress made. They will also be instructed in how to guide their children to build on newly-acquired skills.

Recommended For You

Jon Hershfield, MFT
Elspeth Bell, Ph.D.
Jill M. Hooley, D.Phil.
Jon Hershfield, MFT
Sigal Sharf


Date of original publication: