Programs for children and teens

Programs for children and teens

About the Cool Kids Program

The Cool Kids program has been running at Macquarie University since 1993. It is a structured, skills-based program that teaches children (including teenagers) and their parents how to better manage the child’s anxiety. It involves the participation of both children and their parents, and focuses on teaching clear and practical skills. The program has undergone continual scientific evaluation and development to include the latest understanding of anxiety and its treatment. Current results indicate that most young people who complete our programs show significant improvement. Following treatment, there are marked increases in school attendance, academic achievement, confidence, number of friends and involvement in extra-curricular activities and decreases in worry, shyness, fear and family distress.

Topics covered in the program include:

  • Learning about feelings and anxiety
  • Learning to think more realistically
  • Parenting an anxious child
  • Fighting fear by facing fear (stepladders)
  • Learning other coping skills such as building assertiveness or learning to solve problems

The main Cool Kids program is designed to target children aged 7 to 17 years. There are slightly different versions for younger (up to around 12 years) and older (13-17 years) children. There are also variations of Cool Kids for specific groups and particular delivery including: An outreach version (delivered over the internet, CD, or telephone for children who cannot come for face to face treatment), a version for delivery through schools, a version for teenagers with a mix of anxiety and depression, and a version for children who have an autism spectrum or related diagnosis. 

The Cool Kids program has been translated into a number of languages including Chinese, Turkish, Korean, Spanish, Norwegian, Danish, Italian, Swedish, Icelandic, Greek and Finnish. It is used by therapists around the world and, as a result, thousands of children have benefited by participating in Cool Kids.

Participating in Cool Kids

The Centre for Emotional Health Clinic offers Cool Kids as part of our research and training programs (at a subsidised cost) and also as a full fee paying service. Participating in our research and training programs allows families access to cutting edge treatment for anxiety, at a cost considerably less than that charged by private psychologists. We can keep costs down because we are funded by the Australian Government to conduct research into anxiety in young people and some of our services are conducted by postgraduate clinical psychology interns as part of their training. People who attend our programs are asked to help with the research in a variety of ways. Firstly, participants are asked to assist us by filling in questionnaires and coming in for assessments, even after their program has finished. This is because our studies investigate the long-term effectiveness of the treatments we provide. Secondly, many of the treatments that we run involve minor variations to continually test the best possible treatment. This means that we sometimes have different versions of treatment and participants cannot choose which version they get.

If you can attend our clinic in North Ryde:

If you think that the Cool Kids program may be helpful for your child, your child will first complete a comprehensive clinical assessment. If the assessment identifies that anxiety is the main concern for your child, we will offer a place in either the research or training subsidised Cool Kids Program. If the assessment indicates that Cool Kids is not suitable for your child or you do not wish to be a part of the subsidised program we will provide appropriate referrals or suggest individual sessions with one of our full fee private psychologists.

All Cool Kids assessment and treatment sessions are currently delivered in an individual (non group) format and are attended by a child/adolescent and at least one parent/carer. Assessment and treatment is conducted either by postgraduate interns who are completing specialist training in clinical psychology or by registered psychologists who have completed specialist training in clinical psychology. Sessions are completed at our clinic at Macquarie University, North Ryde.

To find out more about completing the Cool Kids Program at our clinic please read the Cool Kids Flyer and then register your interest by completing our online intake. This will be reviewed by one of our senior clinicians and we will then contact you to book an assessment session or to provide alternate referrals.

Other options

For families unable to attend our clinic at Macquarie University, North Ryde, a new online version of Cool Kids is currently being evaluated. Further information can be found at the Cool Kids Online page.

We also offer individual therapy which is not part of our research for both the Cool Kids Program and treatment for other mental health difficulties with registered psychologists and clinical psychologists. Further information can be found on our Individual Therapy page.

If you have questions about Cool Kids please call our friendly clinic admin team on 9850 8711.

Register now

Our current Government Funded research is evaluating a new version of Cool Kids that directly focuses on social anxiety (Cool Kids Social Anxiety program). Children who have social anxiety are shy and worry a lot about what other people think of them. Children with social anxiety may have trouble in many social situations for example, they may struggle to perform in front of others or to socialise with children or adults; or they may have trouble answering questions in front of the class, or relaxing in a group. If this sounds like the type of anxiety your child experiences register for  an assessment for the Cool Kids Social Anxiety program using the link below under the heading “What do I do now?” If this isn’t the type of anxiety your child experiences, register your interest in the Standard Cool Kids program (first option on the page titled "Programs for Children and Teens").

What does the study involve?

  • An initial assessment to determine if our program is likely to be suitable for your child,
  • If the assessing clinician recommends our research program, participation involves coming to the CEHC for 10 sessions (12 weeks) to see a therapist one-on-one, and
  • Progress assessments, which happen during treatment, immediately after, and 6 months after treatment.

What do the assessments involve?

Clinical assessments are conducted before your family commences treatment as well as after treatment. All assessments involve you and your child being interviewed in person by a therapist and completing tasks and questionnaires about thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

The purpose of the initial assessment is to determine if our program is suitable for your child. These assessments are comprehensive and typically take 3 – 4 hours. After the initial assessment, if you decide that you do not want to proceed with treatment you will have 6 months to take up the offer, after which time a reassessment would be needed to ensure that we have current information on your child. If we believe, after assessment, that our research program is not suitable for your child, you will be provided with other options that would best suit your needs.

Briefer progress assessments take place during treatment, immediately after treatment, and 6 months after treatment. The purpose of the progress assessment is to determine whether your child has improved. You will receive reimbursements of up to $250 of the cost on completion of after-treatment (multiple) assessments. 

What does treatment involve?

If the program is suitable for your child and you decide to participate, you and your child will be randomly allocated to one of two slightly different versions of the Cool Kids Program. Both versions use the current Cool Kids cognitive behavioural approach to treat social anxiety (i.e., skills based treatment). One version has been slightly modified to see if it might be more effective than the other.

The Cool Kids Program involves completing 10, 50 minute sessions over a 12-week period. The program uses a cognitive behavioural approach, that is, it teaches specific strategies for anxiety management including thinking more realistically and gradual exposure to anxiety provoking situations. Your child will attend sessions with a therapist and will be taught practical skills to manage anxiety and build confidence. Parents will attend all or some sessions with their child, depending on the child’s age.

Who decides which treatment we receive?

The treatment you are allocated to is decided randomly, like drawing names out of a hat. You will not be aware of which condition your child has been allocated to. If you would like to know, you can find out the condition after the study is completed. The decision as to which therapist you will have is also decided randomly.

Who will be the therapist?

All therapists at the CEHC have or are completing specialised training in child and adolescent anxiety. All therapists receive ongoing supervision from senior clinical psychologists who have additional expertise in this area.

How much will it cost?

An initial clinical assessment would typically cost $390. However, in return for your participation in our research and training activities we offer a discounted cost of $180.

Treatment as part of this research program is subsidised by government funding. Because of this government support, the Cool Kids Social treatment program costs only $550 (covering 10 sessions).

In addition, up to $250 of the cost will be reimbursed on completion of after-treatment (multiple) assessments. The Cool Kids Social study is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. 

What do I do now?

If you would like to be a part of the Cool Kids Social treatment study or require further information please contact our friendly team at ehc.admin@mq.edu.au, or on (02) 9850 8711. Or complete the online intake, available at Cool Kids Social Intake.

About Cool Kids ASD

The program focuses on teaching children and parents skills to manage anxiety in everyday situations. These skills include:

  • Understanding anxiety 
  • Relaxation 
  • Parenting strategies that encourage brave behaviour 
  • Identifying and using helpful (realistic) thoughts, and most importantly, 
  • Facing fears, building independence and increasing confidence  through stepladders (gradual exposure). 

Social skills are also touched on in the program as they are often a crucial part of building a child’s confidence, however parents should note that social skills are not the primary focus of the program and consequently the program will not replace programs or treatments that focus on social skill development.

The program is offered in both a group format (for children in grades 2 through 6) and on an individual basis (for children and adolescents of any age).

Please read through the information in the Cool Kids ASD Flyer. The flyer contains information that will help you determine whether your child is suitable for this program.

Download the Program Flyer.

About Cool Little Kids

Research has shown that the two biggest risk factors for the development of anxiety is shyness (or behavioural inhibition) at a young age and having a parent who is anxious or depressed. The Cool Little Kids Program aims to educate parents about how best to parent their anxious child. Topics of the program include:

  • Understanding anxiety and shyness in preschool children
  • Causes and risk factors for child anxiety
  • Helpful and unhelpful ways of responding to anxiety in children
  • Skills and strategies to help your child build brave behaviours and face fears
  • Dealing with setbacks and difficulties
  • How to maintain progress after the program ends.

The program consists of 6 group sessions across a 6-8 week period, held at the same time each week. Each session runs for approximately 2 hours.

To find out more about completing the Cool Little Kids Program, please read through the Cool Little Kids Flyer. If you are interested in completing the program please contact us by telephone on 02 9850 8711 or register your interest.

Cool Little Kids Flyer

We also offer individual therapy for both the Cool Little Kids Program and treatment for other mental health difficulties with registered psychologists and clinical psychologists. Further information can be found on our Individual Therapy page.

Helping distressed children & adolescents suffering from somatic health complaints (including recurring headaches, stomach-aches etc).

About 40% of children and adolescents may experience functional somatic health complaints, which are medically benign (that is, they have no identified organic cause). The most common somatic-health complaints experienced by children and adolescents include recurring abdominal pain, gastro-intestinal symptoms, recurring headaches, chest pains, dizziness and nausea. Research has shown that these children are prone to have increased rates of school absenteeism, and this may also have an impact on their learning, peer relations and overall quality of life. Studies have also indicated that up to 80% of children and adolescents struggling to cope with these recurring functional somatic health complaints may also be experiencing anxiety and/or depressive problems.

Our new Cool Kids and Adolescent Health Program is designed to specifically help children learn how to concurrently cope and manage their somatic symptoms as well as learn stress management skills. This program is specifically designed for children aged 7 to 17 years who are experiencing recurring somatic health complaints for at least 3 months (and which a GP or medical specialist has confirmed that the symptoms are medically benign). The program is individually based and involves 10 x 1 hour weekly therapy sessions held either in person at the Centre for Emotional Health Clinic at Macquarie University or via Skype or telephone. Interested families will be invited to attend a screening assessment to determine eligibility.

Learn more and get started

Organisation: Centre for Emotional Health, Macquarie University.

Researchers: Associate Professor Maria Kangas, Prof Ron Rapee, & Prof Mike Jones.

Participants required: Children and adolescents aged 7-17 years who are experiencing recurring somatic health complaints for a minimum of 3-months.

Contact: For more information, please email Associate Professor Kangas and her team by emialing coolkidshealth@mq.edu.au or maria.kangas@mq.edu.au or telephone (02) 9850 4082.

What is the Study Without Stress Program and who should participate?

Study Without Stress (SWOS) is a program for any student currently undertaking their Higher School Certificate (HSC).  It is particularly suitable for year 11 students who plan to undertake their HSC next year but students in year 12 can also benefit.  SWOS is a psycho-educational program that equips students with both knowledge and practical tips on how to approach and overcome the stress associated with exams in the final high school year. We encourage students to participate early in their HSC year rather than waiting until stress has reached a severe degree, however the program can be beneficial at any stage. The program uses Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) techniques to help participants get the most out of their final year whilst keeping stress to a manageable level.

During the July school holidays we will be running a 2 hour workshop which will cover some of the key areas from the full program.  For more details and to register see this page.

What is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and how does it work?

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) assists individuals to identify unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and replace them through learning and implementing healthier skills and habits. CBT is described as an active, solution-focused therapy and involves addressing specific issues by learning new skills, practicing those skills using homework and in-session tasks then applying them to real life situations to create lasting behaviour change. By using the CBT approach, SWoS will focus on both thoughts and expectations about the HSC year, as well as actual behaviours, such as procrastination and study habits.

The Study Without Stress Program covers the following topics:

  • Understanding stress (including causes, symptoms and the role of the stress response)
  • Goal setting
  • Managing expectations and beliefs about the HSC
  • Creating effective timetables
  • Learning how thoughts can affect performance
  • Challenging negative or unhelpful thinking patterns
  • Understanding perfectionism
  • Understanding procrastination
  • Tips to deal with work avoidance
  • Building good study habits
  • Procedures for problem solving
  • Exam preparation

How long will the program take and when will it run?

The program is run across 6 x 1 hour sessions outside of school hours. These sessions take place across 8 weeks of the school term (usually from weeks 2-10). Currently the program is being run in an individual therapy format only. You will be required to spend a little time each week between sessions practicing the skills or completing short tasks to facilitate learning.

Does the program cover specific HSC subject content from the syllabus?

No. The program aims to assist you to study and perform in exams more effectively and with less stress, however the program is not designed to cover specific subject or Board of Studies syllabus content. Speak to your school counsellor or year adviser for information about ways to revise specific subject content.

What if I need help with issues beyond study stress?

The Study Without Stress program is designed to help year 11 and 12 students manage stress associated with the HSC year. The program is not designed to be a psychological intervention for more severe anxiety or depression and therefore will not be suitable for some students who are experiencing these concerns. The CEH Clinic offers more intensive one-on-one treatment for adolescents that need help with such issues. Please phone or email the Clinic if you feel that this is a more suitable option.

A registered or clinical psychologist will conduct an assessment to determine your specific needs and construct a treatment plan informed by latest research. 

For further information on our individual therapy services for children and adolescents, please see this flyer. PDF, 174.22 KB

A program for children experiencing peer victimisation and anxiety

Cool Kids - Taking Control is an online self-help program that is designed to help children who have been targets of bullying and who also have high levels of anxiety. It is based on the well-known Cool Kids anxiety program developed at Macquarie University. The efficacy of Cool Kids - Taking Control in reducing peer victimisaiton is currently being investigated by a team at Macquarie University Centre for Emotional Health. There are limited spaces available for this study.

What is the program about?

Cool Kids - Taking Control is designed for parents to work through with their child at home.

The program is delivered over the internet and involves eight lessons delivered over ten weeks. It teaches children: 

  • about bullying and anxiety, 
  • how to be confident in social situations, 
  • how to better manage fears,
  • helpful ways to act if they are bullied, and 
  • how to cope with bullying. 

Cool Kids – Taking Control includes instructions, examples, and videos for parents and their child. There are lots of practice exercises to help children master the skills.

What will my child learn

Lesson 1:
Being a COOL KID and Social Skills
You will learn all about Cool Kids - Taking Control and meet the Cool Kids children. Max, Abby, and Josh are part of the program and will learn alongside you about how to have more fun. You will make some gaols for what you want to be able to do by the end of Cool Kids. And you will start to learn how to feel more confident talking to other people by using social skills.
Lesson 2:
Stepladders
It is normal for children who are bullied to feel scared about a lot of different situations. These fears and worries can stop you from doing the things you like to do. They can make you miss out on fun and make you feel bad inside. Stepladders help us to face our fears slowly and help you feel more confident about dealing with worries. You will learn how to make stepladders for small worries and learn about getting rewards for doing steps.
Lesson 3:
Detective Thinking
Detective Thinking helps us deal with scary and worrying thoughts. Detective Thinking teaches you how to come up with helpful thoughts that help you feel calm.
Lesson 4:
Dealing with Bullying
Bullying is not OK and if you are being bullied, it is not your fault. But what can you do? You will learn about the three ways you can act - like a quiet mouse, a cranky crocodile, or a COOL KID. You will also learn how to act if you are bullied.
Lesson 5:
More on Stepladders and Detective Thinking
You will learn some tricks and tips for using Stepladders and Detective Thinking on bigger worries. By now you will be starting to become an expert at facing fears and using your skills to become a COOL KID.
Lesson 6:
Coping with Bullying
Bullying can make you feel worried, sad, alone, and different to other children. These feelings are normal and lots of children feel like this when they are bullied. You will learn helpful skills to help you cope with these feelings, including Bursting Bullying Beliefs, Cool Breathing and what you can do to make yourself feel better.
Lesson 7:
Keep Progress Going
You are almost at the end of the program. So it’s time to check that you understand and know how to use your new skills. You will see how the Cool Kids children have used their skills to act more confidently and feel happier.
Lesson 8:
Planning for the Future
Congratulations – you have finished the Cool Kids-Taking Control Program. You will look at the goals you set and think about all the things you can do now that you are a COOL KID. You will also plan how to keep practising your Cool Kids skills and make a plan for what to do if things get hard again.

Who can participate?

The Cool Kids - Taking Control program is suitable for your child if:

  • he or she is between 7 and 12 years of age
  • he or she is being victimised by peers at school AND anxiety is significant affecting your child’s day-to-day life
  • he or she is not accessing other psychological treatment
  • you and your child are proficient in English

Will I receive support to complete the program even though it's online?

Absolutely. The program will be supported by a member of the research team who is trained in Cool Kids - Taking Control. Each parent will receive a short (10-15 minutes) weekly phone call after each lesson to discuss goals and to work through any difficulties with the program.

What will we need to do?

  • An initial assessment to determine if our program is likely to be suitable and beneficial for your child. 
  • A 10-week treatment program
  • An assessment after you complete the program and then again three-months later

All assessments involve you and your child being interviewed over the telephone and completing questionnaires about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

There are no costs associated with assessment and treatment for the Cool Kids - Taking Control study.

How do I access the program? 

If you would like to be involved in the Cool Kids – Taking Control online study, please contact us at takingcontrol@mq.edu.au.

This research has ethics approval from the Macquarie University Human Research Ethics Committee. All data collected is confidential, and is de-identified

The Cool Kids Online program is based on the Cool Kids face-to-face program which has been running at Macquarie University since 1993. The Cool Kids program is a structured, skills-based program that teaches children (aged 7–12) and their parents how to better manage anxiety. Results show most young people who complete our program experience significant improvements with decreases in worry, fear, family distress and life interference.

The Cool Kids Online program has 8 online lessons for parents and children to complete together over 10 weeks. Topics covered in the program include:

  • Learning about feelings and anxiety
  • Fighting fear by facing fear (stepladders)
  • Detective thinking, and learning to think more realistically
  • Building assertiveness and dealing with teasing
  • Helpful ways of coping when upset

Parents take the role of their child’s coach helping them put skills into practice, and most importantly, give their child support and encouragement along the way. Coaches also learn about helpful ways of responding to anxiety.

The online lessons are accompanied by four scheduled phone calls with a therapist. During these calls parents can troubleshoot using Cool Kids skills with their child.

Does Cool Kids Online Work?

Cool Kids Online is based on many years of research on our face-to-face programs and also on years of research on our self-help Cool Kids programs. These self-help versions of Cool Kids have progressed over the years from written workbooks, to computer programs and now into an online format.
Our research with self-help versions of Cool Kids have shown that anxiety reduces, participation increases and life gets easier for both children and parents. We also know that having the support of a therapist while completing the program helps families to make progress. This is the reason for the 4 scheduled phone calls with parents while using Cool Kids Online.

How can I participate?

Having recently completed our research on Cool Kids Online, in June 2017 we will offer the program for the first time as a paid service. If you are interested in participating in Cool Kids Online please add your details to our email list and we will send you further information on the paid Cool Kids Online service in June.

Adolescent Program for Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depressive disorders represent approximately two-thirds of all mental health problems in young people. Chilled Plus is an online treatment program for adolescents with anxiety and depression.

The program has 8 online modules and is accompanied by a weekly 30-minute phone call with a trained therapist. The program is based on cognitive behavioural treatment, incorporating the latest research and techniques in working with motivation and negative emotions. Adolescents will learn creative ways to manage emotions and accomplish their immediate goals.

The online program is based on the ‘Chilled’ treatment program, which has been running at the Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University since 2006. Current results indicate that most adolescents who complete our programs show significant improvement, with reduced anxiety and depression symptoms.

Topics covered in the program include:

  • Learning about anxiety and depression
  • Tackling motivation and setting goals
  • Fighting avoidance by facing it (stepladders)
  • Managing emotions
  • Realistic thinking
  • Coping strategies and assertiveness
  • Handling teasing and bullying
  • Building relationships
  • Ways that parents can help

Our Current Chilled Plus Research

Participating in our research programs allows families access to cutting edge treatment for anxiety, at a cost considerably less than that charged by private psychologists. We can keep costs down because we are funded by an Australian Rotary Health Research grant to conduct research into anxiety in young people. People who participate in Chilled Plus are asked to help with the research in a variety of ways. Firstly, participants are asked to assist us by filling in questionnaires and completing phone assessment interviews, even after their program has finished. This is because our studies investigate the long-term effectiveness of the treatments we provide. Second, as this is a randomized controlled trial, there are two groups: 1. Chilled Plus Treatment Group and 2. Waitlist Group. This means that 50% of participants will be put on a waitlist for 8 weeks before they start the online treatment program. They will be offered exactly the same treatment after the waitlist period of 8 weeks is over.

What does treatment involve?

As part of the Chilled Plus Online Treatment adolescents will complete 8 modules of online treatment. Each module will be accompanied by a 30-minute call with a trained therapist. In addition, the therapists will also have contact with parents throughout the program. This means that treatment is completely conducted over the phone and the internet with no face-no-face sessions.

Like all research at the Centre for Emotional Health, adolescents will be closely monitored by an experienced team of psychologists, who will be available to your family throughout the therapeutic process.

How Much Does the Program Cost?

We ask that all participants place a $100 bond, which will be refunded once all post-treatment questionnaires are completed.

How can I participate in this program?

We believe that the Chilled Plus Online Treatment will offer Australian adolescents the best treatment for anxiety and depression currently available. We invite you to contact us to find out more. If you have questions about this treatment please contact our friendly research officers on chilledplus@mq.edu.au or 9850 6741.

Download this flyer for more information PDF, 371.65 KB.

Enquiry form

In case of an emergency or crisis please contact: 

NSW Mental Health Line – 1800 011 511 or 
Lifeline – 131144

For all none urgent requests, please fill in the form below or phone 02 9850 8711.

Location and hours

Location
The Australian Hearing Hub
Level 1, 16 University Ave
Macquarie University NSW 2109

View map and directions

Clinic hours
Monday to Thursday: 9am – 7pm
Friday: 9am – 5pm
Saturday and Sunday: Closed

Phone: 02 9850 8711
Fax: 02 9850 6578 

Email: ehc.admin@mq.edu.au

Crisis service
NSW Mental Health Line – 1800 011 511
Lifeline – 131144

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