CBT for children and adolescents

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is based on the fact that it is not what happens that causes how we feel, but what we think about what happens. CBT uses a collection of cognitive, behavioral and emotive strategies.

ABC MODEL Activating Belief and Consequence

Situation Thoughts Feelings

Beliefs and Behavior

What is a belief? Beliefs are stable and often unconscious assumptions we make about ourselves, other people and the world. Although we can sometimes consciously think about our beliefs and even question whether they are rational or valid, we do not do this most of the time. Our beliefs influence the way we think, feel and behave.

The activating event(A) does cause the consequence, rather the way we think about it or our beliefs cause the consequence.

Underlying cognitive Model— Situation leads to unhelpful thoughts and extreme feelings that becomes difficult to manage unhelpful behavior and hence the beliefs block the goal.

The aim of CBT is to help us recognize the beliefs we have and examine if they work for us or not. The aim is on developing healthy, realistic cognitions (thoughts and beliefs).

  • Children are born with an innate capacity to think irrationally. Children between the ages of 6 and 10 have limited abstract thinking and a limited capacity for problem solving.
  • A few reasons are that children have difficulty in distinguishing between facts and assumptions, their sense of time is immediate and they also have a tendency to awfulize and over generalize. For example- A child will probably say that he or she failed a test because they think that the teacher does not like them and not because they did not study well.
  • Children have to be taught logical and rational thinking
  • Behavioural and emotional control
  • Some irrational beliefs in children and adolescents are
  • 1 DEMANDS AGAINST SELF-I must be perfect, loved and approved by everyone.
  • 2 DEMANDS ON OTHERS—others should treat me exactly as I deserve to be treated; they must be fair.
  • 3 DEMANDS ON THE WORLD—-things come easily; no hassles
  • Once an irrational belief is identified, then it has to be disputed.
  • DISPUTING—for example-very often we hear a teenager say ‘Nobody likes me’! If such a statement is explored with them, their core irrational belief would be that they want everyone to like them no matter what and even if ONE person does not like them, then they cannot stand it. So, one way of disputing this belief would be to get them to make a list of people whom they think ‘likes’ them. You can dispute their statement of ‘nobody likes me’ with this list. Ask ‘only because person Y does not like you, does that mean that ‘nobody’ likes you? ‘Where is the proof that nobody likes you? Is it possible for all the people in the world to like each other?
  • EFFECTIVE—‘I would like everyone to like me but if few don’t I know how to deal with it.
  • This is a methodology by which we can teach everyone to lead an emotionally healthy life. We can help them to learn personal survival skills which the children need to face challenges of growing up and coping successfully in life.

(contributed by Mrs Chandrika Iyer- Personal growth tutor, teaching children with learning difficulties) Certificate in CBT-Australia Masters in teaching-Michigan state University

“Life” in your handMs. Vasantha Vaikunth