CBT for Teens
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a focused, goal directed approach that helps teens identify the ways their thoughts influence how they feel and behave. Connections are made through the therapeutic process of monitoring individual reactions to daily events, usually by keeping a journal and discussing them in each session.
For example: a teen may think ‘I’m worthless,’ in response to forgetting to getting a poor grade or experiencing rejection from peers. The cognitive therapy process will explore the distorted nature of these beliefs, how these thoughts make the teen feel and the behaviors that emerge and perpetuate this negative cycle.
How CBT Works
Teens develop distorted thinking for several reasons including:
- Feeling an increased sense of control
- Justifying their behavior or choices to others
- Not knowing other ways to cope
The techniques used in CBT confront and attempt to modify these distortions through a process that:
- Tests out beliefs
- Identifies thought patterns that cause distress
- Focuses on realistic interpretations of events
- Teaches problem-solving and coping skills
- Changes unwanted reactions and patterns
- Shows how internal thoughts lead to actions more than external influences
- Provides teens with experience articulating their thoughts
In early sessions, the therapist asks numerous questions of the teen and parent in order to help the identify needed changes and to begin exploring thought patterns that are working and those that aren’t. In later sessions, specific techniques are utilized that teach new ways to think about maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors and may lead to more effective ways of getting one’s needs met. For example, CBT can be effective in treating a teen with depression by exploring and helping change thoughts, attitudes and feeling patterns about themselves that lead to sadness, withdrawal or avoidance.
The Benefits of CBT
CBT works by helping teens learn how to interpret their environment differently. Compared to certain other therapeutic approaches it is more short term and very problem focused, dealing with issues in the present. It teaches ways to identify distortions in thinking and how to make changes by dealing with these distortions in more positive ways.
This type of therapy can provide the following potential benefits:
- Improve communication with others
- Help in dealing with fears
- Interrupt thoughts that lead to addictive or other self-destructive behaviors
- Improve self-esteem
- Identify positive responses to stress
- Change negative thought patterns
The CBT approach is likely to be most effective for teens struggling with issues related to distorted thinking who have the interest and cognitive ability to make connections between what they think and how they act.