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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Teen Depression

Depression (MDD) is a common issue that many people deal with. Depression is a disorder that is characterized by an inability to feel pleasure or happiness, experiencing a depressed mood nearly every day, decreased interest in activities that the individual used to enjoy, feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem, suicidal ideation and others. It is important to note that depression is not experiencing any of these symptoms for a short period of time (a couple of days). In order for it to be considered depression, these symptoms need to persist for at least a two week period. 

So how can you know if you or a loved one has depression and needs to seek help? Well, look at the symptoms that the person is experiencing and try to determine if they are interfering with the individual’s everyday life consistently. If this is the case, then it may be helpful to seek treatment. One type of treatment that has been extensively studied and is regarded to be an incredible resource for those experiencing depression is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral therapy is based on the assumption that people develop maladaptive cognitions (thought patterns) about themselves, other people and the world in general. These thought patterns cause people to paint the world in a way that causes them to experience negative emotions. Think of it this way, if a person has developed the idea (thought pattern) that purple cars are inherently bad and dangerous, when they see a purple car they are going to run or hide (negative emotional response), even though the purple car is most likely not going to do them any harm. The goal of CBT is to help the individual recognize their maladaptive thought patterns, challenge them, and change them so as to decrease emotional distress and the use of harmful behaviors.

CBT Graphic

How Can CBT Help With Depression?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to be helpful for those struggling with depression. The main reason it is helpful is because people that struggle with depression often get caught in negative thought patterns about themselves and the world around them. CBT helps them challenge those thought patterns and change them, so as to feel better about themselves and the world around them. This is how CBT helps in the long-term; however, this process isn’t immediate and those struggling with depression need help in the short-term as well as they still battle with the negative emotions that arise from the negative thought patterns that they are trying to change. As a result, CBT helps in the short term as well by providing healthy coping strategies to help individuals deal with those negative emotions in healthy ways. These “skills” are also used as alternatives to unhealthy habits that many people get caught into when dealing with their negative emotions. These skills can be used for the rest of the individual’s life; however, the goal of treatment is to get the individual to a place where they no longer need to rely as heavily on the skills to live a healthy life. 

  • Short Term Help: Healthy coping skills
  • Long Term Help: Challenging and Changing negative thought patterns

When considering treatment, one question that you must ask is how long do the results last. According to one study, 6 years after treatment those who had undergone CBT were better able to handle their depression than those who had received the standard clinical treatment.

How Ashcreek Implements CBT

Because each individual’s behavior affects the quality of their mental and emotional lives and the quality of their relationships, the primary therapists at Ashcreek Academy are determined to help each boy understand and challenge their thought processes. The goals of the therapists are to create awareness of and help each boy change the negative thought patterns. They do this through individual therapy, individualized interventions, and experiential therapy. 

CBT in Individual Therapy: During individual therapy the therapist can either challenge the client by doing some sort of activity with them and processing their thought patterns as they arise (in the moment), or the therapist can walk the client through their thought patterns from a past experience. Doing it in the moment is helpful because the therapist can point the thought processes out as they arise and this can help the client integrate that into their everyday life. Walking through the thought processes after the event can also be helpful because then the client is emotionally regulated and in a position to think about the different events that led up to the thought processes they had in the moment and the subsequent behavior. 

CBT in Individualized Interventions: Walking a boy through their thought processes is only the first step. Each boy must then practice what they learn in order to get good at recognizing their thought patterns and changing them. In order to facilitate this learning and application, the primary therapist assigns interventions that the student can carry out throughout the day. One example of an intervention is having a boy who easily falls into victimhood check a box for every time he begins to blame other people and his situation. This intervention would help the boy identify every time he begins to fall into his negative thought patterns. Subsequent interventions could focus on replacing their thought patterns with positive ones once they are able to consistently recognize their patterns. 

CBT in Experiential Therapy: Experiential therapy is all about creating an experience that challenges the client in a way that causes their patterns to play out. Then the patterns are processed in order to help the client understand them better. Experiential therapy is a great way to do this because when the pattern plays out in a practical way the therapist can help the client understand how the pattern plays out in the client’s everyday life. For example, if the boy was taken mountain biking and begins to blame the mountain bike, the trail or even the staff when he is having a hard time, the staff member or therapist can help him recognize his blaming pattern and help him see how he might fall into that same pattern in other areas of his life. The reason this is effective is because most thought patterns are not tied to one area of life but are consistent through all aspects of one’s life. 

We see a lot of progress with students through the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. If you have more questions about our approach and if it would work for someone you love, please contact us at [email protected].

Crete Gallagher - Ashcreek residential treatment center staff

Written By: Crete Gallagher, Admissions/Outreach Counselor

For Help Call: (435) 215-0500 Kris Archer- Director of Admissions/ Outreach
In the next 24 hours a member of our team will reach out to you. We want to know more about what you are struggling with and help you determine if our program is a good fit.

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