Alright, you’re almost an adult. But even though you’re almost done with childhood, you might be struggling with heavy thoughts, intense feelings, and reckless choices. If you find that you’re struggling inside (and most teens are), there are tools to support you. There are ways to pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and behavior so that you can gather the power to change them.
As you can imagine, if you’re going to explore your thoughts and feelings, you’re probably going to have to work with someone like a therapist or psychologist. Of course, you can explore yourself in many ways, such as through journaling, healthy discussions with your friends or parents. However, there’s a good chance that you might be limited in some ways. Working with an adult you trust, such as a parent (if you feel comfortable with that), school counselor, therapist, or psychologist can give you extra insight and support that you might not have when you engage in self-exploration by yourself.
Furthermore, a therapist, counselor, or psychologist will have tools to use that can assist you even more in making changes to your inner experience. One of these tools is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, sometimes referred to as CBT. This is a form of therapy that helps you identify negative and distorted thinking patterns. It can help you pin point your unhealthy patterns of thought that lead to making poor choices. For instance, let’s say you’ve just completed an exam and you know you didn’t do well. You’re disappointed because you studied and you need that grade to stay on the football team. Instead of letting your anger and disappointment drive you to go out drinking with friends that night, with CBT you might be able to make a different choice. CBT helps you notice your trigger points so that they don’t get the best of you.
Here’s another example: let’s say you’re always feeling depressed. You don’t know why but this is your experience pretty much every day. A therapist trained in CBT might be able to identify those thoughts that contribute to depression. These could be thoughts like:
- I’m never going to succeed.
- No one here likes me.
- I’m a failure.
- The rest of the girls are always going on dates but me.
- No one loves me.
- I’m unlovable.
You get the idea. When you have these thoughts, they contribute to how you feel. They can create moods such as feeling depressed and even lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts.
By changing the thought pattern, both feelings and behavior change, which can result in a transformed experience of life. Below are the three domains of CBT and how they are connected:
Thoughts: The thinking that goes on inside is the cognition domain and refers to all that happens inwardly, such as thoughts, images, memories, dreams, beliefs, attitudes, and where attention goes. All of these can contribute to negative thinking.
Feelings: This includes emotional and physical feelings and how a teen might understand and cope with them. Emotions can cause symptoms such as sleep disturbances, fatigue, and eating changes.
Behavior: This domain includes the way in which thoughts and feelings might make a situation worse, such as avoiding certain activities that would help to improve mood. It might also include the behavior that only leads to worsening mood, feelings, and thoughts, such as ruminating or berating oneself.
If you are hooked on trying to change your thoughts, find a therapist who is trained in CBT. There’s a good chance that a school counselor will be familiar with this type of therapy. If not, explore the Internet for a local therapist in your neighborhood. Or you might talk to your parents about seeing a psychologist trained in CBT. Doing this kind of inner work can support your throughout your entire life.