Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular psychotherapy that can help treat mental health challenges by improving thinking patterns. Discover how this kind of treatment can benefit your teen.
The History of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Before CBT, the most common modes of therapy were psychoanalyst and psychodynamic therapy. The psychoanalytic approach centers on the idea that our past is responsible for our present. Therapists would focus on a client’s history and childhood in exploring current challenges. Critics of psychoanalytic theory would say the process takes too long, as it would involve having clients attending therapy multiple times a week for years on end before seeing any change.
Enter Aaron T. Beck, the man who is widely credited as the founder of cognitive behavioral therapy. While studying psychoanalysis, Dr. Beck noticed his clients with depression would often have long, drawn-out streams of negative thoughts. These thoughts often appeared automatically in the mind of his clients. He found that by recognizing and interrupting these automatic thoughts, they could substitute them with more helpful, realistic ones. In turn, this helped their depressive symptoms decrease.
How it Works
One of the central beliefs in CBT is that thoughts can affect emotions, and emotions will then influence behavior. With this logic, allowing negative thoughts to develop leads to difficult emotions and destructive actions. On the flip side, positive thinking leads to positive emotions and positive behaviors. So how do you change the thinking process? That’s the goal of cognitive behavioral therapy – to help identify unhealthy thoughts and feelings and learn to replace them with better ones.
At the beginning of CBT, the therapist first assesses the client. This is so they can establish a baseline to determine the frequency, durations, and intensity of the problem behaviors. Then, once the therapist understands what the client is going through, they can help the client understand how thoughts influence behaviors. They will help the client learn to substitute maladaptive thinking patterns with more productive ones. Since the therapist works on changing the client’s cognition, this process makes up the cognitive therapy portion of cognitive behavioral therapy.
CBT is highly goal-oriented, patient-centered, and adaptable to each teen’s unique needs. It uses a variety of techniques to help, including cognitive reconstructions, journaling, guided discovery, and role-playing.
What it Can Treat
There is strong evidence that backs the use of CBT. This is why it makes it a go-to treatment for a wide range of mental health, emotional, and behavioral issues. Research shows CBT is especially helpful for challenges including:
- Anxiety disorders
- General stress
- Eating disorders
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder
- Substance use
- Anger management
CBT can be used for a wide range of applications, which is a big part in why it’s recommended highly for many different mental health challenges.
Short-Term Benefits for Teens
Cognitive behavioral therapy not only works for many mental and emotional challenges, but it comes with many benefits as well – both short and long-term. Here are the short-term benefits that come with this therapy:
- Quick results – As mentioned in the beginning, the biggest criticism of psychoanalyst therapy was that it can take too long to see results. CBT is known to have quick results. On average, about 15 sessions are needed to acquire proficiency in practicing CBT skills.
- Engaging and interactive – CBT activities for teens are highly engaging. This process of learning skills keeps them involved and interested throughout the sessions.
- Helps reinforce principles – The principles teens learn don’t just stop after their CBT session is over. By doing “homework” outside sessions, teens constantly reinforce the new principles they’re learning.
Long-Term Benefits for Teens
The short-term benefits of CBT are great, but the long-term benefits are even better. CBT for teens is very effective in increasing emotional intelligence and self-awareness over the long term. Practical CBT interventions also tend to stay with teens for the rest of their lives, meaning they’re able to utilize the powerful tools they learn whenever they need them. Other long-term benefits include:
- Shifting negative thought patterns toward more positive thinking
- Responding to stress in healthier ways
- Managing social situations more skillfully
- Being more self-compassionate
- Talking themselves down from irrational anxiety and fears
Let Us Be There for Your Teen
If you feel your teen could benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, we’d love to talk and help you decide if it’s the right path. At Equity Associates, our trained and experienced therapists help teens get the treatment they need. Our therapy services are highly personalized for one’s unique needs, and with our usage of telemental health, those seeking treatment can do so in the comfort of their home. We’re based in Ridgway, Colorado but can help those anywhere in the state. No matter what, we’re always here to support those who need us.