Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Children and Teens
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Children and Teens
What is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)?
Your child’s thoughts, and how he reacts to things, affect how he feels about himself and the things in his life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps change how your child thinks and reacts. CBT helps your child:
Change his thoughts, beliefs, ideas, attitudes, mental images, and what he pays attention to. This is the cognitive, or thinking, part of CBT.
Face challenges in life calmly, and then take actions that are likely to have good results. This is the behavioral, or action, part of CBT.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is different from other kinds of therapy in several ways. It is:
Goal-oriented. It helps your child set goals, plan ways to achieve those goals, and check progress.
Problem-focused. The therapist works with your child to identify problems and what exactly needs to change.
Active. CB therapists ask questions and actively listen to your child.
When is it used?
CBT can help with:
Problems with relationships, family, work, and school
Drug and alcohol abuse
What happens during a typical therapy session?
The therapist will ask what problem you and your child would like to work on during therapy. For example, does your child want to stop being picked on by their peers? Get along better with family members? Feel better about himself?
Once the therapist knows your childâ€™s goals, therapy will focus on how your child thinks and what he does.
In CBT, your child becomes aware of thoughts that are false or hurtful. These thoughts are called “distorted thinking” because they are not based on what is really true. Your child may have learned to think this way from things that happened when he was very young or from recent experiences. The thoughts pop into your childâ€™s mind automatically.
In therapy, your child learns to be aware of these distorted thoughts. Your child learns to replace them with healthy and true thoughts. For example, your child may think “Everybody hates me.” Your child feels sad when he thinks this, which make him feel bad about himself. During CBT, your child learns to change or argue with this thought. He might think to himself, “Well, I have at least 4 friends, so some people like me.” After thinking this new thought, your child might feel hopeful and feel better about himself.
Your child may also learn to:
Stop bad habits
Express his thoughts and feelings openly and say “no” when someone asks him to do something that he does not want to do
Improve how he manages stress
How do I find a therapist?
Psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers provide CBT. CBT is used in individual, family, and group therapy settings.
Ask questions and get referrals from people you know and trust. You could check with:
Your healthcare provider
Your clergyman, school teachers, or school counselors
Friends or family members who have been in therapy
Your health insurance company
Your employee assistance program (EAP) at work
Local mental health or human service agencies
Professional associations of psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2012-04-17 Last reviewed: 2014-04-03
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Children and Teens: References
Child and Adolescent Therapy, Fourth Edition: Cognitive-Behavioral Procedures, Philip C. Kendall, Guilford Press 2011
Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry; Theodore A. Stern MD, Jerrold F. Rosenbaum MD, Maurizio Fava MD, Joseph Biederman MD, Scott L. Rauch MD; Mosby; 2008
American Psychiatric Association Practice Guidelines for the
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