Updated: September 10, 2020 | Original Post: August 15, 2019
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) focuses on the interactions between a person’s thoughts, behaviours, and emotions in order to help bring about change. In a nutshell, it helps us first to identify and then change the dysfunctional thought patterns that are causing us distress.
CBT identifies three layers of cognitions. Core beliefs, which are the hardest to change, impact how we see ourselves. Our Underlying Assumptions are based on our core beliefs, which help us predict how we will interpret the way in which the world operates. Automatic thoughts (AT) are thoughts that we have, which might not be noticed by us, throughout the day and are based on how our core beliefs impact our underlying assumptions.
If a student’s core belief is that they are a failure at school, then their underlying assumptions will be based on that belief. They might feel that regardless of what they try they will not succeed, which then can lead to negative automatic thoughts such as “I’m about to fail another test.”
The benefits of CBT for teens can be found here.
My approach to CBT focuses on challenging thoughts for a simple reason: we often will believe what we think even if what we think is not true. A teen could believe that their friend ignored them at the mall (a negative thought) which could lead to sadness (a negative emotion) and maybe even a fight (a negative behaviour). What if their friend never knew that they were there? By putting thoughts “on trial” my client and I examine whether their thoughts are supported by evidence. If not then we work on understanding why they are having these thoughts and try to restructure their thinking. If evidence supports their thoughts, then our focus is on the behaviours that they might be doing that are creating the reality that they are experiencing.