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Masters of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certification

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) - Topic 52

What is it?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is an approach to behavioral therapy that incorporates both cognitive and behavioral tenets to address depression in children and adolescents.  By combining cognitive and behavioral theory, CBT addresses dysfunctional thought processes while seeking to change the pattern of depressive behaviors by teaching children to increase engagement in reinforcing activities and promoting positive social skills.  The therapist’s role is that of a teacher, providing direct information and support to a student as he learns to monitor his thoughts and behavior.  CBT has been found to be an effective practice to intervene with students demonstrating depression (Curry, 2001).  There are a variety of types of CBT therapy.  The most common is cognitive restructuring, which teaches students to challenge their negative view of themselves and their surroundings, replacing those thoughts with more realistic ones.  Another is problem solving, which teaches students to evaluate stressful situations and respond to them deliberately. A third approach targets self-management, teaching students to use self-monitoring to make self-directed changes in mood and behavior.

Why is it important?

Research shows that students experiencing depression struggle with problems in school that impact learning, including low self-esteem, poor concentration, poor attendance, poor academic performance, and withdrawal.  Estimates of mental health prevalence indicate that more than 30% of students will experience a significant problem during their school careers.  Importantly, recent work indicates that interventions for depression are more effective when implemented when symptoms first emerge (Kern et. al, 2007).   


Curry, J.F. (2001).  Specific psychotherapies for childhood and adolescent depression.  Biological

Psychiatry, 49, 1091-1100.

Kern, l. & Clemens, N.H. (2007). Antecedent strategies to promote appropriate classroom behavior.

Psychology in Schools, 44, 65-75.

Web Links

National Association for Cognitive Behavioral Therapists

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