Northern Psychiatric Associates
The mental health clinic of choice in the Brainerd Lakes Area

NPA Blog

Northern Psychiatric Associates Blog

A Practical Behavioral Approach to Treating Tourette’s and Tic Disorders

In January I attended a training on the comprehensive behavioral intervention for tics (CBIT) sponsored by the Tourette Association of America. I found it to be excellent intensive training with a very practical behavioral approach used to treat Tourette’s and tic disorders.

Tics are stereotyped movements and/or vocalizations that are “sudden, rapid, recurrent, nonrhythmic (American Psychiatric Association, 2013 p. 81).” Having tics can be a common experience in childhood. However, sometimes tics persist and interfere with the child’s life. Most tic disorders start in childhood with symptoms usually decreasing during adolescents (APA, 2013). The symptoms can be distressing and leave the families unsure of how to help. 

The current treatment options for Tourette’s includes psychotropic medication, botulinum toxin, deep-brain stimulation (severe cases), and behavioral therapy.

The behavioral therapy can help decrease and manage symptoms in a significant number of children. The therapy is generally short-term. The main components involve doing a detailed analysis of when and where the tics are occurring, making environmental changing where necessary, mood regulation, awareness training, and finding competing responses to use replacement of the tics. The focus is on helping children and families find practical ways to manage the symptoms and improving the quality of their lives.

As a therapist, it’s exciting to be able to provide CBIT. I’m hopeful that as time continues more people will become aware that this therapy is available. 

Casey Wagner, MSW, LICSW


American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA. American Psychiatric Publishing.