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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Common Cognitive Distortions & Coping Skills

A chalk board with the words, thought, emotion, behavior with arrows pointing back and forth between the words encircled with CBT written at the bottom. CBT can help in couples therapy katy, tx and with therapy for ptsd in katy, tx. CBT can also help with social anxiety therapy katy, tx and trauma therapy katy, tx 77494.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the more well-known talk therapy approaches. CBT has been in use since the 1960's and has been extensively studied. It is a counseling approach supported by research and shown to be effective.

Because of its effectiveness, many therapists include this training in their toolbox of therapy approaches. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help teens and young adult struggling with:

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a talk therapy approach that focuses on changing a teen or young adult's unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. By doing so, CBT can help improve a teen or young adult's ability to manage their emotions.

Many of the emotions we feel can be traced back to a thought. That thought often stems from an irrational negative belief we may hold about ourselves.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy targets the irrational negative belief (core belief), the thoughts that arise from this belief (cognitive distortions) and helps to change these. There are a variety of skills that CBT teaches to help do so.

Using these CBT skills on a regular basis can help change our negative beliefs and the thoughts which help improve our emotions.

Common Cognitive Distortions: Teens & Young Adults

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While each teenager and young adult are different and may have differing cognitive distortions, there are some that are common among teenagers and young adults.

Fallacy of Fairness

The fallacy of fairness is a cognitive distortion that we come across in teen counseling and young adult therapy.

The fallacy of fairness leaves a teenager or young adult often focused on the necessity of all things being fair. We all know that life is not fair. Sometimes things in life will go our way and other times it will not.

This comes up often when siblings are involved. An older teenager may feel it's unfair that he has to do the harder, more complex chores than his younger sibling.

In parenting children and teenagers, we know that they both have differing capabilities based on their age and maturity. As a result, they will have different responsibilities and different rewards and how those are administered.

Always Being Right

This cognitive distortion tends to be prevalent among teenagers and some young adults. When we were teenagers, we can remember that we "knew it all" and had life all figured out.

Many teenagers today are no different. And some may have the cognitive distortion that they must always be right. Being right can be so important that it can take priority over someone else's feelings.

This cognitive distortion makes it difficult to admit to mistakes. When we must always be right, this can create a sense of anxiety and entitlement.

Catastrophizing, Magnifying, or Minimizing

We may all have examples of this cognitive distortion with teenagers and some young adults. Catastrophizing, Magnifying, and Minimizing have similar characteristics with some slight variability.


Catastrophizing is when we expect the absolute worst-case scenario. For example, if you won't allow your teenager to attend a certain party, she may respond, "Everyone is going! If I don't go my social life will be over and I won't have any friends!"


Magnifying is when a person focuses on a smaller and seemingly less significant aspect of action or behavior. A young adult who bombs a test may focus on that one test leading him to believe that he is not smart enough to get a good grade in the class.


Minimizing is the opposite end of the spectrum. Minimizing is making larger mistake, behavior, or actions smaller than they really are. This is done to avoid feelings of guilt, attempt to avoid responsibility for certain actions or to justify certain actions.

For example, your teenage son may come home and talk about a friend who stole from the store. He may minimize the act of stealing by explaining that it was just one candy bar and wasn't a big deal.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Coping Skills

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There are a variety of coping skills that CBT teaches to help counter the negative core beliefs and the cognitive distortions that can result.


Journaling is a great way for a teenager or young adult to get their thoughts out and to explore them further. Journaling can help particularly with those teens or young adults who may be anxious or depressed.

There is no judgment with journaling as it's a private and confidential conversation you have with yourself. When you journal, you can write down the event that occurred, think of the cognitive distortion that may be being used, and challenge the distortion.

If it's the example of the young adult forgetting to turn in one assignment, is it really going to mean that he cannot get a good grade in the class? Sometimes getting the thoughts out of your head and down on paper can bring a clarity that you can't get otherwise.

Playing the Script to the End

This is a great coping skill for a teen or young adult with anxiety. Anxiety creates irrational thoughts that bring about the feeling of fear or anxiety.

Playing the script to the end encourages a teen or young adult to think about the worst-case scenario of the upcoming event or situation. Once they create a potential worst-case scenario in their mind, the next step is to see if it would still be manageable.

For example, an anxious teen who has a class presentation coming up. What's the worst-case scenario? Maybe they will forget a word or sentence or two. Maybe they will look nervous and their voice be a bit shaky. If this is the worst-case scenario, is it survivable and will they be able to manage experiencing this?

Often the answer is yes. Even though it's not the ideal outcome, it can help reduce the anxiety going into the situation. And many times, it turns our far better than anticipated.

The Objective Observer

This is a favorite of mine that is effective in teen counseling or young adult therapy. The objective observer asks a person to step outside themselves and look at the situation with an objective perspective.

The objective observer only accepts facts. It asks the person to examine the situation and bypass any guesses, conjecture or anything else that is not hard, concrete evidence.

For example, a teen may have a core belief that they are not a good friend. The objective observer would look at the evidence for not being a good friend and the evidence that the teen is a good friend.

Many times, you can make a list. On the left-hand side of the list, you write down the evidence that you are not a good friend. On the right-hand side, you right down the evidence that you are a good friend.

I have yet to have the left side list be longer than the right-side list. And the right-side list is often much longer than the left side list.

This can help put into perspective negative core beliefs and whether the belief is rational or irrational.

Katy Teen & Family Counseling: 70+ Years of Combined Experience in Providing Teen Therapy & Young Adult Counseling in Katy, TX & Houston

Your teen or young adult do not have to live with the crippling effects of anxiety, depression, or other emotional or behavioral challenges. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is but one of the many talk therapy approaches out there that have been shown to be effective. And we also use non-talk therapy approaches that are also supported by research.

There is an answer and a pathway through for your teen and young adult. Once freed from the emotional or behavioral challenges, they can regain their hope, happiness, and access their inner potential to achieve wild success in life.

At our Katy, TX location of Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we are ready to help your teen or young adult. If you are ready to start, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:

  1. Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling

  2. Talk with one of our caring therapists

  3. Start the healing today

Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling

At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide a variety of therapy approaches that are supported by research and shown to be effective. Some of the teen therapy and young adult counseling we offer are:

Board Certified Neurofeedback Therapy

Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)

Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)

Group Therapy for Teens

Body Image

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Couples Therapy & Marriage Counseling

To succeed in any relationship takes work. This is a common understanding that many of us have.

However, sometimes life will throw challenges at us that create situations that put strain on our marriage or relationship. It may be due to:

  • Choices and actions that have been made by one partner.

  • Financial downturn in the economy creating financial strain.

  • Feeling like you're growing apart.

  • Feeling like you don't have as much in common as you used to.

Whatever the reason may be, marriage counseling and couples therapy can help. Couples therapy and marriage counseling has also been found to work in less time than individual therapy can.

If you've worked hard for this relationship and find that there are now barriers in the way of maintaining a healthy relationship, contact us at Katy Teen & Family Counseling.

About the Author

Man sitting at a desk, right arm laying on the desk across his body, left elbow resting on the desk, fist resting under the side of his chin, wearing a silver watch, pink polo shirt, glasses, beard and he is smiling. He is a marriage counselor katy, tx and is also a couples therapist katy, tx 77494. He is also a marriage therapist katy, tx and also provides neurofeedback for anxiety houston texas.

Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker - Supervisor (LCSW-S), Board Certified in Neurofeedback, EMDR trained, and a Certified Brain Health Professional through the Amen Clinics. He has provided therapy to teens, young adults, and families since 2003 and is the Owner & Lead Clinician at Katy Teen & Family Counseling and Katy Counseling for Men.

He specializes in leading teams of high performing therapists who also specialize in teen therapy, counseling young adults, and family counseling.

Jason is also a leader in the field of teen, young adult, and family counseling providing expert coaching and technical assistance to teen Residential Treatment Centers across the country.

Jason is also a regular contributor to various magazines and publications lending his expertise to various mental health related topics. You can check these articles out on our "Featured Articles" service page on our website.

He has also been a guest on Fox 26 Houston and on a podcast, "Grow a Group Practice" with Alison Pidgeon.

If you are ready to start teen counseling or young adult therapy call, text, or email us today!

Phone Number: 281-519-6364

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