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5 Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Techniques for Teens

Teen-aged girl experiencing cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) aims to change negative patterns of thinking and behaving. Unlike forms of therapy that require patients to delve into past trauma, CBT focuses on improving the present regardless of what has happened in the past. To learn more about cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques for adolescents, contact Imagine Boise today at 888.597.2807.

What Is CBT?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a well-studied, evidence-based psychological treatment that is effective for people of all ages. It’s founded on the belief that psychological problems are based — at least in part — on unhelpful ways of thinking.

Teens who are able to change these negative thinking patterns feel more confident in their ability to make good choices and achieve their goals.

What Techniques Are Used in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adolescents?

Teenagers aren’t known for their patience, and therapy doesn’t fix problems overnight. However, CBT is effective for younger people because it’s a shorter-term approach to therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for adolescents aims to produce results more quickly than many other treatments.

1. Brainstorming

Brainstorming exercises help teens quickly shift their focus away from obstacles and onto solutions.

There are several different types of brainstorming exercises. For example, a teen might write a sentence describing what’s bothering them, then quickly write a list of things that could improve the situation. With brainstorming, there are no wrong answers.

2. Successive Approximation

Successive approximation is one of the most commonly used cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques for teens because it helps them learn how to follow through with completing a task. While the term may sound complicated, it simply means breaking large tasks into small tasks.

For example, suppose that a teen has a major school project overwhelming them. Successive approximation teaches how to break the project into small, easily achievable steps. Conquering small steps helps the teen avoid frustration and builds their confidence.

3. Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga help teens manage stressful thoughts and stay focused in the present moment. These techniques are especially effective for helping teens who are recovering from substance use disorders avoid relapse.

4. Behavioral Assignments

No teenager looks forward to homework assignments, but practicing the skills discussed in therapy is necessary in order to master them. A CBT therapist may suggest a number of different assignments to help teens learn self-management skills they can use in the real world.

Some examples of behavioral assignments include:

  • Tracking lifestyle changes, such as keeping a food diary
  • Recording negative thoughts and emotions in a journal to help identify triggers
  • Practicing relaxation techniques
  • Recording the results of new problem-solving skills when they are applied

Having a written account of their assignments will provide teens with clear proof that the cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques they are learning are effective and worth practicing.

5. End-of-the-Day Thoughts

Just like adults who get stuck in negative thinking patterns, many teens end their day by replaying negative thoughts in their minds.

Instead of lying in bed dwelling on their mistakes or obstacles, this cognitive-behavioral therapy technique encourages adolescents to visualize the best parts of each day. What went right? What did they accomplish, and what were their successes?

Teens may opt to spend a few moments writing down these positive encounters in a journal or simply visualizing them. Lingering on positive thoughts helps teens build new pathways in their brains and can be a powerful tool for forming healthier associations.

Learn More About Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy at Imagine Boise

CBT is effective for treating teens with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use disorders, and other mental health concerns. If you have questions about what techniques are used in cognitive-behavioral therapy or how CBT could benefit your teenager, contact Imagine Boise today at 888.597.2807.