Blog 4-June, 2018

So..... this month I want to spend some time discussing Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).  We will first  examine what CBT is and the basic philosophy that forms its foundation.  Then in the next blog in June, I will  show how I have integrated CBT with the other approaches to addressing behavior and academic issues that we have all experienced, both parents and educators.

Let me say upfront, that while I have many hours of training with CBT and hope to continue  traveling to the Beck Institute, I am not a therapist.   Therefore,  my understanding of CBT and its application is from a lay perspective.  Often, during classes in CBT at the Beck Institute in Philadelphia, PA, I was the only non-therapist in the course.  My concerns and my questions were often very different from the health care professionals.

The first aspect of CBT that I want to share is the Cognitive Triangle or Cognitive Model which forms the basis of all therapy.  A diagram of it is pictured below.

The diagram is rather self explanatory.  What we think affects how we feel and how we feel drives our behavior.  Our Behavior is a visual expression of the other two, less obvious steps in the process.  And it becomes a vicious circle.  As our behavior affects how others see us, their reaction to us often confirms our thoughts about ourselves and our feelings about the situation. (More later about how this diagram relates to CPS and Social thinking.)

 CBT is based on deductive reasoning (as opposed to inductive reasoning)  This is often referred to as 'top down' logic  (as opposed to bottom up logic) It means we make a general conclusion and then we look for evidence to support it.  Kids do this all the time.  Math is hard.  Everyone knows that.  Then they fail the math test,.  That just confirms that math is hard.  I must be dumb as others passed it.  I can't do math.  Who cares anyway! If this is what they think, how do you see this thinking translating into feelings about school in general.  Perhaps in social interactions?

 What do we see happening in math class?  Probably, this is one of the classes where they become a behavior problem. What happens at home?  No matter what opinion we have, we get an argument.   Remember what Rita said......Kids don't learn from people they don't like.  Usually they don't like the adults because they feel we are judging them.

  I used to give kids a chance to do the test over for a better grade. I blamed the student.  The student was just lazy and didn't want to put in the time to study again. I couldn't understand why they wouldn't want to get another shot at the test; more time to study and all. Most didn't.  I thought I was being the 'good guy'.  But the reality was I was confirming their opinion of me (as they shook their head and walked away)  and of themselves.   I now believe that they knew better than I did that they wouldn't do any better the second time.

Let's look at an hypothetical.

 I have been given a job to build a dog house and my deadline is approaching. As an adult, I have been offered a good amount of money to do this, so the motivation is there.   The dog owner comes to see my progress.  I haven't done much.  She says I can have an extension on the time.  What is the point of giving me an extension if I don't have the tools and the knowledge to use them. I could sit there looking at the blue prints until cows fly and I won't be able to build that house.  I feel like a failure.  People will judge me as a looser.  All that money and I couldn't pull it off.

But, if someone wants to work with me the first time and walk me through the process, I have a chance of learning the steps.  And each time that person works with me, I learn more and the steps are re-enforced.  I perceive myself as likable and teachable.  Someone believes I can do this, even if I am not so sure at the moment. Also, what do I begin to do in my head?

I begin to think that maybe I can build a dog house some day.  And if I think that, then I begin to feel pretty good about myself.  And if I begin to feel pretty good about myself, my behavior is not as aggressive or argumentative toward the people around me.  In fact I may begin to like the person who is taking the time to teach me!

A few well researched truths:
  1. Kids who feel good about themselves, generally do better at school.
  2. Kids who feel good about themselves are more apt to risk being wrong.
  3. Kids who feel good about themselves are more apt to ask for help
  4. Kids who feel good about themselves and feel the classroom is a safe learning space are more apt to interact socially in more appropriate ways.
Teachers have so many kids and parents are so busy, it is often difficult to find the time to sit with one child; to spend this one on one time.  But I will tell you from first hand experience, those few minutes can deliver a powerful message.  They can change someone's world and make your life so much easier.

See you in two weeks......stay well.


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