Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Teens

Are you the parent of a teen struggling with mental health? Perhaps you have heard of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a potential treatment for your child’s challenges. Learning what this therapeutic approach is and how it works can be incredibly helpful as you seek help for your teen or adolescent child. CBT has been gaining popularity as an important part of treating mental health issues in teens. It is effective and can be used in many different ways to help teens understand, manage, and even overcome the challenges they are facing. We utilize CBT in both our Shortridge Academy program, as well as, The Ridge program.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Teens

Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat a range of mental health conditions, These include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, insomnia, substance use disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In CBT for teens, the therapist works with the teen to identify challenges that may be disrupting their daily functioning or causing emotional distress. These can include anything from developing healthier relationships with peers to learning how to manage stress or anger in productive ways. The therapist then builds on the teen’s strengths by equipping them with strategies to combat the challenges more effectively.

What are the Most Common Teen Issues That CBT Can Help With?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an invaluable therapeutic resource for teens. It can be used to assist them in dealing with a variety of difficulties. CBT for teens has proven particularly effective in treating depression and anxiety, helping them manage stress, addressing low self-esteem, and improving relationships with family, teachers, and friends.

Here is a list of other common issues affecting teens that can be treated using CBT:

  • Anxiety Disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and specific phobias
  • Depression and other mood disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Eating Disorders, such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Substance Use Disorders
  • Self-Harm Behaviors, including cutting and burning
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
  • Conduct Disorder

How Does CBT for Teens Work?

When it comes to CBT, therapists use a variety of techniques and approaches to tailor CBT to the needs of teens. Then, the therapist and the teen will work on this plan together.  The most common types of kind-hearted techniques that are often used in combination with each other include:


Psychoeducation interventions provide scientific and clinical insight into psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and trauma. Through this technique, teens gain skills necessary for the self-regulation of emotions. Additionally, they get a stronger understanding of the coping mechanisms that might help them deal with challenging situations.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a form of CBT that is focused on teaching skills related to mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, assertiveness, and interpersonal effectiveness. DBT helps teens learn critical skills to sustain long-term behavior and emotional regulation changes.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

REBT is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that helps teens address and work through irrational beliefs they may have. It helps them develop more rational responses when faced with problems at the same time. This technique helps build healthier coping skills that can help teens manage their stress levels and lead more productive lives.

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring is a technique used to help teens identify the connection between thoughts and feelings. By doing this, they can learn how to challenge negative thoughts and replace them with more positive alternatives. It also helps them gain insight into the thought patterns that lead to maladaptive behaviors.

Behavioral Experiments

Behavioral experiments are another form of CBT intervention. It generally involves repeatedly testing a hypothesis to reduce emotional vulnerability or modify behavior patterns. This includes trying out new social behaviors or changing one’s routine. Although these observational tasks can seem rather simple when written out, teens frequently need to have a lot of bravery to try them out.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a technique often used in conjunction with CBT for teens who struggle with anxiety or avoidance behaviors. In this type of intervention, teens are gradually exposed to the situations or stimuli causing fear or anxiety in order to desensitize them to the triggers over time.

Relaxation Practices

Activities like mindfulness meditation or yoga are used to help reduce physical symptoms such as tension headaches and muscle tightness. At the same time, it improves self-care behaviors, including healthy eating and exercise, as well as problem-solving abilities.

How Does CBT for Teens Differ From DBT?

You might be wondering how CBT differs from dialectical behavior therapy, another type of therapy commonly used to treat teens.

DBT, more than CBT, is focused on building mental resilience, and it’s often used with teens who have been through traumatic experiences. It’s about learning to take one moment at a time and to think about the pros and cons of how to deal with each situation.

CBT and DBT can overlap in some ways, but in general, the two approaches differ in the following ways:

  1. Goal setting: While CBT usually focuses on finding solutions to existing problems, DBT focuses on making better decisions moving forward in order to avoid those same problems in the future.
  2. Skills: CBT works with analytical skills like problem-solving and decision making while DBT focuses more on social and emotional skills like interpersonal effectiveness.
  3. Understanding behavior: With DBT there is an emphasis on understanding underlying emotions as opposed to just changing behaviors that mask those feelings in CBT.
  4. Coping skills: CBT for teens teaches coping skills such as thought-stopping or cognitive restructuring while DBT focuses more on acceptance of self and life circumstances as opposed to trying to change them.

By understanding the differences between cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, you can decide which option will best suit your teen’s needs.

Evaluation and Effectiveness of CBT for Teens

teen cbt

When it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of CBT for teens, the evidence is quite strong. Studies have shown that CBT has benefits in decreasing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other psychological difficulties. In addition, teens who have participated in CBT often have improved self-esteem, better problem-solving skills, a greater understanding of their emotions, and more self-control.

More advantages of CBT for teenagers are listed below:

Improved coping skills

One of the main goals of CBT is to help people learn better ways of dealing with stress. By providing teens with practical ways to deal with difficult emotions—such as problem-solving and conscious relaxation—they are able to manage their feelings and thoughts more effectively.

Increased self-awareness

CBT encourages self-reflection and helps teens become more aware of how their thoughts and feelings are connected. As they become more aware, they better understand how their thoughts can influence their behaviors and vice versa.

Positive reinforcement

Teens learn to identify patterns in their thinking that lead to negative behavior or feelings. It also helps them learn how to replace these patterns with positive ones. This increases their self-confidence and helps them concentrate on their strengths.

Improved relationships

By building positive thought patterns and developing better-coping strategies, teens can begin to form healthier relationships with their peers, family members, and others in their lives. Teens can also learn communication techniques that improve interactions with others.

How to Find a CBT Therapist for Your Teen

Finding a CBT therapist for your teen can be a daunting task, but here are some steps you can take to find a qualified and experienced therapist:

  1. Ask for referrals: Start by asking your child’s pediatrician, school counselor, or other healthcare professionals for referrals. They may be able to recommend CBT therapists in your area who have experience working with children and teens.
  2. Check your insurance provider: If you have health insurance, check your provider’s list of in-network mental health providers. You can also call your insurance provider directly to ask for a list of covered therapists.
  3. Use online directories: There are several online directories that can help you find CBT therapists in your area.
  4. Check credentials: When researching potential therapists, check their credentials to ensure they are licensed mental health professionals. Keep an eye out for their CBT experience and education. Look for credentials such as Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), or Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).
  5. Schedule a consultation: Once you have identified potential therapists, schedule a consultation to talk with them. By doing so, you may know right away if they are a good fit for your teen. Ask about their experience working with children and teens, their approach to therapy, and what to expect from the therapy process.

Consider your teen’s preferences: Finally, consider your teen’s preferences when choosing a therapist. It’s important that your teen feels comfortable and safe with their therapist. Factors such as gender, age, and personality when making your decision are essential.

Are You Ready to Get Help for Your Teens?

It’s no wonder CBT is such an effective strategy for teens. Not only does it help them to better understand their own thoughts and emotions, but it also provides the practical tools needed to confront and manage difficult situations.

At Shortridge Academy, CBT is just one of the many therapeutic resources we use within our treatment programs. We recognize that every teen has unique needs, so we create tailored treatment plans that use CBT as a cornerstone of care. Our experience shows that when teens are given the right support and tools, they’re able to make positive choices and create a healthier, more successful future. Get help for your teens and contact us today!

top Skip to content