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Doctor talking to teen boy

Pick a strategy: Primary care doctor to share approaches to help teens with anxiety

September 19, 2022

Editor's note:  For more coverage of the 2022 AAP National Conference & Exhibition, visit

When a patient comes to you with anxiety but can’t get in to see a therapist, don’t panic. There’s a lot you can do to help.

Joannie T. Yeh, M.D., FAAP, will outline approaches she uses with patients in her primary care practice during the session “Nonpharmacologic Strategies for Adolescents With Anxiety” (S3410). The session will be held from 2-3 p.m. PDT Sunday, Oct. 9 in rooms 156/160 of the convention center. It also will be livestreamed.

“One of the key things that I will cover is how to engage families in this conversation,” said Dr. Yeh, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Sidney Kimmel Medical College in Philadelphia.

Sometimes, parents don’t understand why their child is anxious or minimize the youth’s struggles. Dr. Yeh explains to families the biological basis of anxiety and shares statistics on its prevalence in teens to show them they are not alone.

She also lets her patients know that they will be driving the treatment plan, which could include medication in addition to nonpharmacologic strategies.

“I always tell my teen patients, you're the captain,” Dr. Yeh said. “You have to let me know what the destination is, and I will help you get there safely.”

During the session, Dr. Yeh will focus on nonpharmacologic approaches pediatricians can use such as deep breathing and grounding techniques to help patients focus on the present moment instead of their distressing thoughts. While some of the strategies may be familiar to pediatricians, Dr. Yeh likes to personalize them for each patient and make them fun.

In addition, she encourages patients to come up with their own strategies to manage their anxiety. For example, one patient shared that she found applying mascara to be grounding. “That's brilliant,” Dr. Yeh said. “It's accessible. You can do it anywhere. It's cheap.”

Dr. Yeh will emphasize the importance of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which she calls the gold standard for treating anxiety and depression, and how pediatricians can introduce CBT to patients who are waiting to get into a mental health professional.

Attendees also will get a chance to practice some of the techniques and ask questions.

For pediatricians who still feel anxious about their ability to help their patients, Dr. Yeh has this advice: “Pick one strategy and try it. Our patients need it.”

For more information on the National Conference, visit View the conference schedule at

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