Cognitive Behaviour Therapy in its simplest form can be broken down into the following
What we think,
affects how we feel,
and what we do.
Throughout the course of therapy a great deal of time is spent
At this point you might be asking, “Why would we spend time on
When we have a problem that is interfering with our lives, there will be
negative (or unhelpful) thoughts present.
In order to change how you feel and what you are doing you will need
challenge them, and
||link them to your feelings and
We will also need to replace these thoughts with healthier
Replacement thoughts, a.k.a. healthier thoughts, are very important. If you
do not replace your negative or unhealthy thoughts, it will be much more difficult to eliminate them. As you
are working on your thoughts you will be asked to learn and practice coping skills to address your feelings and to
help change your behaviour.
Let’s look at an example
A teen stops smiling, does not
want to hang out with friends anymore, stops passing in homework, and begins to fight with friends and family. We
know that these are not positive behaviours but we are not sure how this teen is feeling or what types of thoughts
are happening. If explored it might be learned that the teen is having feelings of sadness, anger, worry, or
despair which are triggered by thoughts like “I am stupid”, “No one likes me”, “I am so ugly”, “I failed the test
and I will fail my class”, “My friends don’t like me”, “My parents don’t love me.” These are just a few examples of
types of thoughts someone might experience. If therapy just addressed the behaviours of this teen it might miss out
on the root of the problem: the thoughts that are driving the feelings and the behaviour.
Here is picture of what CBT looks like:
Why choose Cognitive Behavioral
As I stated earlier there are many forms of therapy used to treat the
problems people experience. There has also been and continues to be a great deal of research on the effectiveness
of these therapies. A major research question that has guided many years of study is, “Does therapy A significantly
help the people it is being used on?” Researchers, therapists, insurance providers, and many other invested
professionals want to make sure the therapy they are offering or that is offered is really the best choice. As a
psychologist I am guided by the term “best practice”. Best Practice means that a lot of research has been conducted
with a certain therapy and the results have been positive: People are helped by the therapy. For instance, to date
the best practice guideline for children and teens facing anxiety and depression is Cognitive Behavior
What is research telling us about cognitive behavior
As mentioned above two issues children and adolescents struggle with are
anxiety and depression. In both cases cognitive behavior therapy has shown success. In a recent literature review
Rapee, Schniering, and Hudson (2009) summarized among the most effective treatments for anxiety in childhood and
adolescents is cognitive behavior therapy. There were significant results in studies that undertook therapy with
just the child or adolescent and those which incorporated parents into treatment. Other literature reviews have
found similar results. Compton, March, Brent, Albano, Weersing, Curry (2004) found the optimal treatment for
children and adolescents with anxiety and depression was cognitive behavior therapy. These are just two literature
reviews taken from a wealth of knowledge to illustrate what research has found and how best practice
guidelines are established.
March, J., Brent, D., Albano, A. M., Weersing, V. R., Curry, J. (2004). Cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy for
anxiety and depressive disorders in children and adolescents: An evidence-based
medicine review. Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 43(8), 930-959.
Rapee, R. M, Schniering, C. A., Hudson, J. L.
(2009). Anxiety disorders during childhood and adolescence: Origins and
treatment. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 5(3), 11-41.