Simple Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Strategies for Teens in a Pandemic
Updated: Jan 18
One of a school counselor’s most important jobs is to help students make good choices and practice behaviors that are positive and healthy. By examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviors with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), counselors can do just that. Never before, however, have counselors had to be so creative in finding new ways to bring counseling techniques into a school setting. We often have only a few sessions with students, and now we have to connect and build coping skills online, too!
Linden Counselor and Clinical Social Worker, Makia Matheis, shared simple CBT strategies with 300+ members of the International School Counselor Association. Her workshop included creative ways to use a five-part CBT model to help teens change negative thought patterns to positive ones, and teach young people that they are capable of handling anything that comes their way. Here are some of her best strategies for working with teens using a CBT Cognition, Emotion, Physical Sensation, Behavior model.
CBT Strategies & Tips for Cognitions
Use Socratic Questioning - a form of questioning that can be used to help students explore complex ideas and open up issues and problems. For example: “What do you mean when you say X?” “Could you explain that point further?”
Encourage students to keep a record of healthy ways of thinking, feeling and behaving with a Positive Data Log
Have students provide evidence that supports/opposes their assumptions
Help students speak to themselves as though they are a good friend, then go back and review how a friend would speak to them
Teach mindfulness strategies
CBT Strategies & Tips for Handling Emotions
Encourage students to express emotions with themselves or someone they trust.
Help teens express themselves in creative ways through art, journaling, photography, etc.
Ask students to rate their emotions from 1-10. For example: “On a scale of 0-10 (10 = you at your very best), where are you now? What do you need to move up one notch closer to 10?” “What will you be doing differently when you move up one point on the scale?”
Help students “Name it to tame it”. Students can be taught to notice and name strong emotional reactions. This enables them to filter and organize big emotions and increases their capacity to respond in the moment.
CBT Strategies & Tips for Physical Symptoms
Download and share our 5 Senses Grounding Technique. Sensory grounding helps students regain control of their body when they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
Encourage students to exercise regularly or play sports.
Encourage healthy eating and discuss how food can impact our mental health
Explore healthy sleeping habits together.
Discuss screen-free time and how this may impact our overall sense of wellbeing.
CBT Strategies & Tips for Negative Behaviors
Teach self management and organizational skills. Show students how to break down large projects into smaller manageable chunks.
Help students notice and consider what a behavior is communicating. Walk through this with them.
Discuss the difference between healthy diversion strategies versus avoidant behavior.
Check out Makia’s recorded presentation and resources here
Get in touch if you'd like to find out more about our mental health workshops or counseling services for teachers and students. We're always happy to help!