Explaining Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Teenagers.
Suffering from a backache, I recently went to a see a doctor who told me that I was not standing correctly. As I have skillfully been standing for decades, this came as quite a shock. Also, why was this person blaming me, the patient? I went home to complain to my wife and she reminded me that the reason I had gone to the doctor was because she had had enough of my complaining about back pain. Begrudgingly, I went to see a Physical Therapist, whom the doctor had recommend, and was told that I had developed unhealthy habits. Again, blaming the patient. As I was in pain, I decided not to argue about my ability to stand since age one, and we promptly began working together.
Quite quickly, I realized that I really did have some seriously unhealthy habits. My shoulders were always leaning forward, my neck muscles were often tensed up, my knees were stiff, I would slouch over a computer for hours on end, I slept on four pillows, I never stretched when working out, and so on. It became abundantly clear that I was not taking good care of my back. As much as I did not want to admit it, I was not standing very well. Just to be clear, this realization did not stop be from complaining every single appointment.
Other than making me aware of these habits that I would need to work on changing (e.g. taking walking breaks when working on the computer), the physical therapist taught me specific exercises that would assist me in developing better posture. Honestly, these precise exercises varied from painfully boring to simply painful, but the outcome was more than I could have ever imagined. Only when I had started standing with a healthier posture did I realize just how unhealthy my previous stance had been. I experienced less pain, and with time, I started feeling more vibrant in my day to day. I felt more confident, ‘standing tall’, if I may.
In many ways, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is similar to Physical Therapy, the difference being that instead of looking at things like physical mobility and daily habits, we are interested in your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Ask yourself: Do you have less self-confidence than you deserve? Do you sometimes judge yourself harshly? Do you have unyielding expectations of others that makes it hard for you to interact? Do you often feel anxious? In certain situations are you angrier than need be? Do you sometimes take actions that you subsequently regret?
I stand. I have been doing so my whole life but this did not preclude me from having developed unhealthy habits. In fact, my doctor told me that a large percentage of people these days have posture problems. But how does this relate to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? You think, you feel, and you take actions. You have been doing all of this for many years. This does not mean that you might not have developed some unhealthy habits along the way and you very well may benefit from practicing some healthier habits. Everyone around you is on a journey of personal development and everyone will struggle in developing life habits. And yes, all of them are searching for some guidance, some clues on how to grow as a person. A therapist is just another type of guide.
If anyone important to you has suggested that you may benefit from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, do not take this as a personal insult. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is not about assigning blame, it is not about ‘bad’ behavior, and it is not about anyone being ‘crazy’. It is about personal development, a way to raise your quality of life and help you reach your goals. It is about recognizing unhealthy habits and developing healthy ones instead. You can judge yourself fairly, noticing your own strengths and weaknesses. You can learn to interact comfortably with a variety of people, including ones that may have character traits that you dislike. You can be less anxious. You can be less angry. You can learn to think for a second more before taking actions in ways that you may regret. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is about building confidence and ‘standing tall’. Also, did you know that therapy is a place where you are not only allowed to complain but you are actually encouraged to? Sign me up.
If you have found this post enlightening in any way, then you may also enjoy my upcoming first book: Improving Student Behavior. The Success Diary Approach.