Managing Aggression in Teenagers with CBT

7 October 2015
 Categories: , Blog

CBT, or cognitive behaviour therapy, is a common and effective therapy for dealing with a range of problems including anxiety, depression and aggression. For parents of teenagers with an issues with aggression, CBT has the potential to help your child improve their social interactions, as well as adapt better to structured environments such as school and work.

How does CBT work?

Aggression is largely an automatic reaction, where people react to a perceived threat with equally, or more threatening, behaviour. CBT breaks down automatic thought processes that have analysed the situation as threatening by slowing down reactions, and helping people to analyze whether the other participant is genuinely threatening and whether the behaviour is warranted in terms of long term consequences. In many cases teenagers with aggressive traits are not successful analysing the other participant's emotional state, so spending time building emotional intelligence and the ability to see the situation from both sides is useful in reducing aggressive reactions.

CBT also looks at automatic reactions, and helps people to see why they might automatically act in a certain way (such as learned behaviour from childhood, or cultural norms) and also looks at alternative ways of dealing with a similar situation. It often uses techniques such as role play to achieve these ideas, which are formed through self discovery and reflection by the client. 

Who can benefit from the therapy?

Any clients can benefit from spending time reflecting on their behaviour and working out if they are responding in the best way. The best external results (such as improved school attendance and lower reported violence levels) are often observed in clients who have had disrupted childhoods, or stressful events in their past which lead to automatic reactions that are not always appropriate in more structured environment, such as schools, or when dealing with authority figures such as the police.

Who can run the therapy?

Simple exercises can be run by teachers, parents and support workers. This can include role playing reactions with "grumpy" teachers, policemen or teachers in any environment as well as working on techniques that help clients to calm down in inflamed environments. Keeping a self reflection journal can also often help clients to try techniques and work out the most effective techniques for them.

For clients with more intensive issues, a trained psychologist (like those from Associated Psychology Services) can offer unique insight and a more formal program of CBT in a group or individual setting.