Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT)

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Tourette syndrome affects the nervous system—the brain, spinal cord, and nerves—and people with the disorder are unable to stop themselves from performing tics (sudden, involuntary, repetitive movements or sounds).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medication had been the primary treatment option for Tourette syndrome—until recently. Since medication for Tourette's may be ineffective and can have unwanted side effects, researchers have developed a promising new treatment called Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics.

CBIT, which does not involve medication, is a type of therapy designed to help people with tics change their behavior systematically. Using Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics, people with Tourette syndrome become aware of tics and "urges to tic," and learn to perform a different behavior (called a competing response) instead. CBIT is carefully developed and designed specifically for each individual person.

CBIT usually takes place in a therapist's office. Treatment typically involves about 8 one-hour sessions over the course of 10 weeks or so. During treatment, the therapist helps the individual to recognize his or her tic or urge to tic, carefully chooses a new behavior to replace the tic, and then assists the individual in practicing this new behavior over and over.

CBIT is not a cure for Tourette’s, and it doesn't work for everyone with the disorder. However, for many people with Tourette syndrome, it is a safe and effective tool to manage tics and reduce their impact on daily life. According to two large-scale studies, more than half of all children and about 38 percent of adults treated with Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics showed significant improvement. More research is needed to determine when and for whom the therapy works best.

Another important aspect of CBIT involves helping the person with Tourette’s— and his or her family members—identify and reduce circumstances and situations that make tics worse. For example, stressful situations and other people’s reactions to tics often worsen symptoms of Tourette syndrome, so learning how to relieve/manage stress may be helpful.

It's important to note that although it is possible to manage tics and change behavior through CBIT or other therapies, Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder and people with the condition do not perform tics by choice.

The CDC and the national Tourette Syndrome Association are working together to educate health care providers, people with Tourette's and their families, school personnel, and others about recognizing, diagnosing, and treating tics/Tourette's. By promoting awareness, improving treatment options, and increasing knowledge and acceptance of the disorder, the goal is to give children and adults with Tourette syndrome every opportunity to succeed.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 05 Jun 2013

Last Modified: 09 Mar 2015