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How do therapists treat oppositional defiant disorder?

ODD involves frequent episodes of disruptive behavior and persistent hostility and defiance of authority figures—episodes typically made worse by harsh punishment—and so a therapist will try to address both the issues that cause anger and defiance and the way adults respond to them. Working from the idea that children with ODD understand the difference between right and wrong, and that they want to behave well, a therapist will help patients master the emotional-regulation and social skills they lack. By showing empathy, ignoring behaviors that are not violent or destructive, and rewarding positive steps, a therapist can help a child improve over time, especially when parents and teachers are taught to adopt the same approach.

Who can diagnose oppositional defiant disorder?

A mental health professional with expertise in ODD may diagnose the condition after a comprehensive evaluation of a child’s behavior, as well as the frequency and intensity of their disruptive episodes, and family interactions in general.ODD emerges during childhood and sometimes in adolescence and typically involves persistent anger or irritability, disruptive argumentative behavior, and strong hostility towards parents and other authority figures. ODD often occurs along with conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, learning disorders, or mood disorders, a definitive diagnosis can be hard.

What is the most common treatment for oppositional defiant disorder?

The most common treatments for oppositional defiant disorder involve therapies that target both children and parents. A therapist will work with a child to master emotion-regulation strategies and impulse control, and help parents learn effective management strategies for working with their child on their own. A technique known as Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS), developed to support children with disruptive behavior, may also be used to help children learn to work with parents and teachers to solve the problems causing their behavior—without harsh punishment or criticism.

Can oppositional defiant disorder be overcome with treatment?

Oppositional defiant disorder is treatable and with early intervention, conduct problems that emerge early in childhood can be well managed. Within three years of diagnosis, ODD symptoms resolve in two-thirds of children, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Once a child is diagnosed, families are typically prescribed a combination of treatments, often including behavioral therapy and parental training, and in some cases, medication as well. The earlier treatment begins, the more likely it is that ODD can be kept from developing into a more serious mental health disorder.