Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Why Use CBT?
CBT is a research-based technique that is proven to help children and adolescents with a variety of mental health conditions. It is an effective treatment method for anxiety, tics, Tourette syndrome, body-focused repetitive behaviors, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, and other behavioral and emotional disorders.
The great thing about CBT is how practical it is in daily life. Not only can CBT help people understand their thoughts and behaviors, but it helps lay the foundation to identify and achieve specific goals to improve quality of life at home and school.
CBT is helpful for children and adolescents because it utilizes their interests to spark motivation for change. CBT is also intrinsically rewarding; when kids start to see the positive results from their efforts, it is reinforcing and empowering. The realization that people have power over their minds and bodies is a remarkable feeling, particularly for kids who have struggled with the physical and emotional effects of mental health conditions.
The ultimate goal of CBT work is for kids and families to develop a ‘tool box’ of strategies that they can naturally begin to use on regular basis. In other words, when individuals can recognize their underlying thoughts, feelings and behaviors, they can utilize specific coping skills to help work towards a resolution.
What Is CBT?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a method of exploring thought, feeling and behavior. It is a way of identifying how these factors collectively impact your life.
CBT can be a useful tool to delineate your thoughts from your emotions. Often we lump thoughts and feelings into one category; CBT challenges us to pay attention to the way we feel and what our thoughts are in any given situation so that we can consider how and why our behaviors manifest in the ways they do.
Once we are able to look at specific thoughts, emotions and behaviors, we can start to examine whether there are areas that need adjustment. Think of it as chiropractic work for the mind. Sometimes we can have a thought that isn’t exactly accurate and it evolves into negative feelings and behaviors. For example, if one has the thought “I’ll embarrass myself around others,” it may result in feelings of anxiety and discomfort, which then manifests in avoiding others. CBT can help untangle all of that and examine the root of the issue, help correct unhelpful thoughts and navigate difficult emotions that arise from those thoughts.
The ‘behavioral’ part of CBT also helps us determine ways to make necessary changes in our daily lives to reflect these internal processes. In the example of someone who has the thought “I’ll embarrass myself in front of others,” the thought can be corrected into something more accurate, and the feelings about oneself will then change, but the behavior will also be an important part of the transformation. After being taught to help think in a more accurate and productive way, a child may be taught coping strategies, problem solving skills, social skills, and/or techniques to face and overcome fears. A task given to the child to practice between sessions might be to reach out to three people to practice friendly social interactions.
Part of what makes CBT so effective is that it requires a 3D view of ourselves; we’re not robots devoid of all feeling, nor are we purely emotion-driven. The thoughts, feelings and behaviors we engage in are intrinsically linked, and when one of those factors is adjusted, the other factors also adjust accordingly.