What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an active, evidence-based treatment that teaches children and adolescents about the relationship between their thoughts, behaviors, and feelings, so that they are better able to understand and control them. 

It is a goal-focused and solution-oriented treatment that emphasizes an understanding the function and pattern of one’s problematic behaviors, so that one can implement more effective behaviors. It also identifies maladaptive or unhealthy cognitions or “thinking styles” and teaches children and teens to challenge these thoughts with new, effective ways to look at situations and experiences. CBT also incorporates relaxation techniques that can be useful in managing the physical symptoms of anxiety or helping to treat sleep issues and interpersonal conflict.  

CBT is the foundation for many specific treatments offered at BPS (i.e. treatments for trauma, depression, self-harm/suicidality and OCD). Depending on your child’s intake assessment, clinicians at BPS may recommend a specific treatment approach. CBT is a time-limited approach to treatment, that seeks to empower clients to become more independent over time. To this end, all our clinicians at BPS aim to educate our clients and their families to turn them into their own “therapists,” so that they can continue to achieve their goals in their lives in the future.  

It involves several different types of interventions, including:  

Exposure-based Interventions: Exposure based techniques are some of the most used interventions for Anxiety Disorders. They involve imaginal and in-vivo gradual exposure to the feared situations to allow the brain to habituate and decrease the fear response. During this the process the brain learns new information that disconfirms previously negative, fearful beliefs and reactions to the situation.  

Acceptance-based Interventions: Acceptance-based interventions help clients reduce their suffering by practicing accepting reality for what it is. Anxiety and Depression are often fueled by ruminating about the past or anticipating the future. Acceptance-based techniques involve practicing mindfulness and acceptance of the current moment, without invalidating people’s distress about the past or future.  

Cognitive Modification: Many people form maladaptive, ineffective negative beliefs about themselves, situations, and the world around them. These often form in response to traumatic events, or experienced distress. Cognitive Modification techniques help clients learn to identify and challenge these beliefs with more accurate, adaptive ones.  

Change-oriented Interventions: Behavior is often seen as being caused by our emotional states. “If I feel anxious then I avoid this situation.” However, research supports that behavior also greatly influences our emotional states. Change-based techniques help clients identify problematic behaviors and replace them with alternative behaviors that align more clearly with their long-term goals.  

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