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We spend a lot of time teaching kids coping mechanisms they can use to calm themselves when they’re getting dysregulated. Often, however, it’s more effective and more efficient to teach them how not to get upset in the first place. Enter Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT.
The three points of the “CBT triangle” include the thoughts, feelings, and actions that follow an event. Something happens...we have a thought about it...which makes us feel a certain way...and then we react. Many kids (and adults) think that the event itself creates their feelings, but it’s really their interpretation of the event that does so. Helping them develop an awareness of the thought process that’s actually creating their feelings can help disrupt a negative behavioral cycle.
These worksheets will help you illustrate the process to students. I’ve made four variations so you can choose the one you need in each situation:
1) the basic CBT triangle
2) the basic CBT triangle with language adjusted so you can use it to process an incident after the fact
3) the basic CBT triangle with an additional box to use for thinking about what the outcome of one’s actions might be
4) the CBT triangle with space to brainstorm alternative ways of thinking about the event, how each would change one’s feelings and actions, and what the possible outcome would be for each alternative
I’ve also included a poster with a CBT mantra, “Changing your thinking can change how you’re feeling,” brief instructions, and two sample worksheets with examples provided.
CBT is another tool in my counselor toolbox, joining Social Thinking and the Zones of Regulation. I find them all to be compatible. You can check out more about my counseling philosophy and see activities I use with my students on my website, www.schoolcounselingfiles.com.