Adolescent Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to have significant positive effects on teens for a number of different issues, including but not limited to: Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Eating Disorders, and Substance Abuse struggles. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a goal-oriented approach to therapy that focuses on examining connections between teens’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The goal is to help teens to change thought patterns and behaviors that will in turn provide them with relief from the negative symptoms related to Mental Health disorders. Teen CBT is a bit different from other forms of therapy, in that the therapists actively work with the teens to overcome and/or reduce the symptoms associated with their current struggle. As opposed to more general “Talk Therapy,” CBT sessions have more of a structure, as therapists intentionally guide teens to talk about and work through specific topics and/or challenges. The therapists discuss with teens the progress they’re making, as well as struggles they’re still having, to constantly maintain an awareness of the goals that have been set for the teens’ treatment plan and where they are, along this path. This active participation on the part of the therapists also includes giving the teens “homework” or exercises to practice outside of treatment sessions. Because the therapy is based on the teens making changes in their own lives, this work must extend beyond just the time the teens are directly working with their therapist.
Because CBT focuses on helping teens to change behaviors that are related to the struggles and symptoms they’re experiencing, it can be a very powerful tool in not only helping treat teens, but also help to prevent relapse. Some of the practical steps that CBT might incorporate into teen treatment plans include adding positive activities to the teens’ lives and restructuring negative and/or false thought patterns.
CBT might be used to change teens’ behaviors including things like helping teens add positive, enjoyable activities into their daily lives. Though this may sound simple, it can often be very difficult for teens who are depressed to have the energy to initiate doing positive things for themselves, and similarly, it can be difficult for teens who are struggling with Substance Abuse to incorporate any “enjoyable” activities that don’t involve using.
Another focus of Teen Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to help teens disrupt, and then restructure, negative thought patterns. These negative self-perceptions and beliefs often accompany almost all Mental Health disorders, serving as either a cause or trigger of negative behaviors and feelings. For instance, teens struggling with Eating Disorders almost always suffer from low self-esteem and many negative beliefs about themselves, which leads them to their destructive behaviors. If teens are struggling with Phobias or Panic Attacks, they have thought patterns in place that spiral out of control, when they come into contact with a trigger, whatever that may be. The difficult thing about these thought patterns is they can be very evasive to the teens’ themselves, until they’re encouraged to actually articulate the sequence of their thoughts with a therapist. Then, the connections between one thought with the next (or lack of connection) becomes more clear. Therapists can then work with the teens to disrupt these negative thought patterns from beginning, the teens can begin to regain a sense of control over their thoughts, and therefore, their feelings as well. This can be an incredibly powerful step and can provide teens with considerable relief from what they’re experiencing.
Research has shown that Adolescent CBT is an extremely effective therapeutic approach for a number of different Mental Health Disorders. In fact, it has been shown to be as effective as medication treatment, for both Anxiety and Depression. As with any treatment approach, certain teens will connect better to CBT than others, but many teens enjoy and feel supported in the collaborative nature of this particular technique and in getting to work actively with their therapist. In so much as it is a short-term, intensive, goal-oriented approach, CBT can often be a great technique to incorporate within our short-term residential treatment plans at Paradigm, alongside one to several other treatment approaches.