CBT has a place in the classroom

Sue Mason

Sue Mason is a cognitive behavioural therapist who has developed an education programme based around techniques that are associated with this style of therapy (CBT). Sue passionately believes that in bringing these coping strategies into schools to be presented to children of approximately ages 7 – 13, and delivered in an age appropriate fashion, is undoubtedly the first steps to achieving a lifelong happy and healthy mental wellbeing.

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Originally published on 9th September 2016. Originally published on 9th September 2016.

More than ever, our Primary and Secondary school children are feeling the pressures of everyday life spilling over into the classroom. This could be peer pressure from friends about having the latest phone or the coolest clothes, or the pressure children are putting on themselves by setting such high standards, or maybe conflict amongst friends which is creating ill-feeling at school.

Whatever the negative issue may be, by implementing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) into the classroom, we can arm the children with the tools they need to cope with the obstacles that life will undoubtedly throw at the them. CBT is a talking therapy that focuses on looking at the way we think, and how our thoughts affect our feelings and behaviour. Therefore, if a child is thinking in a negative fashion, this can significantly adversely impact their feelings and emotions and in turn affect the way they behave.

For that reason, when we look at the benefits of CBT in the classroom, we could take a child whose behaviour may be suffering due to a negative situation that has occurred in their life. Their ability to rationalise, communicate well, concentrate, retain and recall information may be impaired. CBT techniques and strategies would enable that child to realise that it is their negative ‘thought’ that is causing them to struggle with their feelings and behaviour.

Once this is established, we can familiarise the child with ‘thought cycles’ and how to have"CBT is a talking therapy that focuses on looking at the way we think." an awareness of why and how they are responding in this way to this particular situation. However, CBT is not just about helping children who are already encountering an issue; we can help to pre-empt any troubles, too.

CBT focusses very much on the positive; looking at such issues as self-esteem lifting, self-confidence building, empathy, respect, resilience, turning negative thoughts around, positive thinking, how to be happy, effective communication, acts of kindness, peer pressure, remorse, confronting negative emotions, mindfulness. These are invaluable life skills, and to possess them will bring about a happy and healthy mental wellbeing.

Ages nine to 11 are an ideal age to begin to implement these strategies, which will alleviate the anxiety that can often be associated with the transition to Secondary school. CBT delivered in an age-appropriate fashion is the chosen style of therapy to reduce these levels of worry, and in turn see an increase in the ability to cope with this gargantuan leap forward in their young lives.

As children then proceed through to Secondary school and on into adulthood, armed with these techniques, will see them becoming well-rounded individuals who are resilient and strong, and possess the ability to cope with difficult situations as they arise.

CBT gets results – without doubt. At age 21, 80.5% of those with a diagnosed anxiety order had received a prior diagnosis before the age of 18. Therefore it is imperative that children are taught these skills early, and to establish an awareness of ‘themselves’ and their thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

The Government advises that a child should be undertaking two hours physical exercise per week (possibly soon going to increase to one hour per day), why aren’t they also suggesting that children also have two hours per week of mental exercise / health awareness? Both, surely, are equally as important to achieve that all important healthily physical and mental wellbeing.

By bringing CBT into the classroom, we can ensure that pupils are given the best start possible in understanding their mental health.

Have you ever used CBT with pupils? Let us know below.

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