The teen years are a period of growth both physically and emotionally. When puberty hits and hormones kick in, the body and brain undergo significant shifts. Kids start to think differently than they did when they were little, and they physically feel different than they used to. Throughout the transition from childhood to adulthood, many teens battle mental health issues.
Teens who struggle with mental health problems like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and body dysmorphia can benefit from receiving professional therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps teens learn to link their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Therapists who use CBT can ultimately help teens address their negative thought patterns to change their behavior for the positive.
The goal of CBT
At Sundance Canyon Academy, our therapists use CBT to help struggling teens acknowledge their feelings and change negative thought patterns. Once students are aware of their negative thoughts, they can learn to challenge those thoughts’ validity and change their view of the world and themselves.
As thoughts begin to change, students see a shift in their feelings and behaviors. When they see the world more clearly, they can think through their actions rather than respond negatively. Naturally, positive behavior yields positive emotions, contributing to positive thoughts and views about life.
The overall goal of CBT is to help people learn to challenge negative thoughts to cope with unpleasant or stressful situations. Teens with mental health trouble can undoubtedly benefit from CBT, but so can teens going through stressful or difficult life experiences. Once they can cope with life’s challenges, life becomes easier.
How does CBT help struggling teens
Along with helping teens learn to challenge their negative thought patterns, CBT teaches specific coping strategies. Teens with a low frustration tolerance or low self-esteem need help to balance their emotions. Through coping strategies and purposeful actions, CBT can help struggling teens with a range of emotional struggles.
For example, teens with low self-esteem learn to identify and acknowledge inaccurate thoughts about themselves. The therapist would ask reflective questions to help the teen see flaws in their current view and recognize other possibilities. If the teen feels like they always do everything wrong, the therapist might get them to start acknowledging little things that they do right. If there are things they do right, they can’t possibly do everything wrong.
CBT typically comes with some homework to do between therapy sessions as well. Teen therapy doesn’t stop when the therapy session ends. They are expected to continue thinking about and working on the topics discussed during therapy sessions. So, progress continues even between sessions.
The benefits of CBT
Some of the most common benefits of CBT in teen therapy include:
- Improved self-esteem
- Higher stress tolerance
- Reduced negative effects from grief and loss
- Mitigated substance abuse
- Improved relationships with others
- Reduced fear or anxiety
Depending on the teen’s issues, CBT can be used in conjunction with other therapeutic methods. CBT often happens in conjunction with family therapy for struggling teens with mental health problems. Your teen’s therapist can give you recommendations on the best treatment methods for your teen.
What to expect from CBT
The first couple of therapy sessions will primarily focus on giving information from the teen to the therapist. The therapist will ask many questions and might even have some paperwork for you to fill out. This introductory assessment period is used to determine the general issues and the severity of the situation.
After that, the number of therapy sessions range based on need. Teenagers who are in the throes of severe mental health problems or behavioral trouble might go to therapy sessions multiple times each week. Teens with minor issues might only go once a month. If your teen attends a therapeutic boarding school, speak to the school about the minimum number of therapy sessions for students.
The goal of CBT is for the student to manage negative thoughts and feelings independently without needing a therapist for help. As teens see progress in their treatment, their number of therapy sessions will probably lessen. Therapy can still be beneficial, of course, but they should be able to make it through a negative experience without immediate support.
CBT isn’t a cure-all treatmen. Going through CBT doesn’t mean that your teen will never experience stress or feel bad about themself again. Life will still throw curveballs at them, and stress is inevitable. If they have a chronic mental health condition like depression, they might need therapy or medicinal treatment into adulthood.
However, CBT can help teens learn to manage their thoughts and emotions and act in ways that will benefit them in the long run. Even if something bad happens at school and they feel stressed out, they need to know how to calm down and keep going. As they are becoming adults, teens can’t get derailed or behave in self-destructive ways every time something makes them feel bad. They need to feel confident and prepared to make it through life’s trials.
For more information about how we use CBT to help struggling teen boys, call us at 866-640-1899.