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What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the term used for a group of psychological treatments that are based on scientific evidence. These treatments have been proven to be effective in treating many psychological disorders among children and adolescents, as well as adults.

Some people have an inaccurate view of what psychological therapy is supposed to be, perhaps because of the old-fashioned treatments shown on TV or in the movies. For example, on TV, psychotherapy may seem to involve dream interpretation or complex discussions of one's past or childhood experiences. This type of psychotherapy is outdated. In fact, very few psychotherapists (e.g., psychologists, social workers, or psychiatrists) use this type of treatment.

Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies for children and adolescents usually are short-term treatments (i.e., often between 6-20 sessions) that focus on teaching young people and their parents specific skills. CBT is different from many other therapy approaches by focusing on the ways that a person's cognitions (i.e., thoughts), emotions, and behaviors are connected and how they affect one another. Because emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are all linked, CBT approaches allow for therapists to intervene at different points in the cycle.

There are differences between cognitive therapies and behavioral therapies for young people. However, both approaches have a lot in common, such as:

  • The therapist and child or adolescent client develop goals for therapy together, often in close collaboration with parents, and track progress toward goals throughout the course of treatment.
  • The therapist and client work together with a mutual understanding that the therapist has theoretical and technical expertise, but the client is the expert on him- or herself.
  • The therapist seeks to help the client discover that he/she is powerful and capable of choosing positive thoughts and behaviors.
  • Treatment is often short-term. Clients actively participate in treatment in and out of session. Homework assignments often are included in therapy. The skills that are taught in these therapies require practice.
  • Treatment is goal-oriented to resolve present-day problems. Therapy involves working step-by-step to achieve goals.

We introduce cognitive therapy and behavior therapy in more detail elsewhere.

 
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