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Setting your teens (and yourself) up for success!

Updated: Sep 7, 2022

Focusing on what is right with our clients and not what is wrong is the basis of Positive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or positive CBT, is a strength-based approach with positive psychology roots which works extremely well with teens.

As a positive CBT practitioner, I focus on building a client’s strengths and using strategies that clients can use to help cope with their problems. Strategies include, amongst other things, setting goals and building optimism, hope, and resilience.

As positive education continues to show promising results among children and adolescents, positive CBT can benefit as well. Positive education works to prevent dysfunctional behaviours; however many young people enter therapy on an involuntary basis.

Often, young children or teenagers only seek therapy because adults in their lives notice them displaying problem behaviours. Although parents and teachers will seek therapy for developmental conflicts, it is often difficult to differentiate dysfunction and the bumpy road of maturation.

It can also often be difficult to trust the therapist if you are not there out of your need but rather your parents. As a therapist I work towards earning the trust and build a relationship on a positive foundation where they can feel change led by themselves.

Inner Strengths to Nurture

In a perfect world, every child learns the tools to understand the beliefs they hold about themselves and the world that surrounds them.

By the time children move towards their teenage years, the whole world can seem like a confusing and unfair place where they do not belong. That’s why CBT-intervention is so important, for anyone, but especially for young adults in the formative stages of their life.

Optimism, hope, and resilience are core parts of living a fulfilling life, and studies prove that these strengths are not fluffy or idealised concepts, but rather, strengths with a powerful worth.


Optimistic children are more successful at school, homework, and sports than pessimistic children (Seligman, Reivich, Jaycox, & Gilham, 1995). More so, optimistic adolescents are not only less angry but are less likely to use drugs and alcohol or delve into unhealthy social media habits.

Criticism from parents, teachers, coaches, and other adults also play a role in a child’s optimism levels. Learning how to cope and receive constructive criticism is key.

As a child matures into a teenager, the influence of friends and peers will be of increased importance to them. But criticism they received at a younger age will continue to shape their self-talk and perspective.


Hopeful children tend to have higher self-esteem and are less prone to depression.

Research has shown that children and adolescents who have more hope have fewer behavioural problems. Hope, combined with a positive support system, contribute greatly to their feelings of self-worth.


Edith Grotberg, Ph.D., carried out research in several countries with the International Resilience Project and found that resilience has a huge impact on children. According to Grotberg, resilient children can overcome trauma.

As children become older their capability to build their resilience is based on how well they were taught resilience a younger age. The type of support system they had determines whether they acquired skills and enhanced their inner strengths.

Positive CBT with children and families explores which of these inner strengths a child or teenager already has, and how they can be further developed as well as locating gaps that need to be filled.

Goals for Positive CBT

The goal for the clients is for them to enhance their strengths and prevent future problem behaviours.

Imagine what it looks like, for children or teenagers to conjure positive emotions by themselves, develop resilience in the face of adversity, and be optimistic about their life.

By understanding their own strengths and working on them, CBT provides the opportunity for children and teenagers to thrive, and for parents to feel closer to their children.

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