Cognitive therapy is time-limited, short-term, directive, structured, goal-oriented, and collaborative, making it an ideal framework for an intervention by teachers with their middle school students. Cognitive interventions are brief and focus on the present problem and finding alternative solutions. This approach is practical and easy to understand by teachers and students. It does not focus on the problems, but directly on solutions.
By emphasizing the correction of systematic cognitive errors, a student is helped to think non-negatively. It is important to distinguish between thinking non-negatively and thinking positively. This is not just an exercise in semantics. It is easy to recognize a negative thought like “I hate everything about school.” While it is unrealistic to believe that we can totally turn this around to a positive “I really like everything about school,” cognitive interventions can help a student think non-negatively enough to realize that “Some things at school aren’t so bad.”
Merely acknowledging a belief is irrational is not enough to change it. Since this is a skill-based approach, students are expected to eventually identify their irrational or inaccurate perceptions, evaluate how realistic the thoughts are, and change their distorted thinking on their own. Teenagers tend to prefer action to words and seek to assert their independence. Cognitive, brief, solution-focused interventions (as outlined in Lesson 1) that rely on personal responsibility and choices are ideal for teenagers.
For more information and readings on cognitive therapy:
- The Beck Institute of Cognitive Therapy and Research: www.beckinstitute.org and <http://www.cognitivetherapy.com>
- “What is Cognitive Therapy?” R. W. Westermeyer at <http://www.habitsmart.com/pin.html>
- Brief therapy: <http://www.brieftherapy.org.uk>
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