Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that identifies and transforms negative emotional reactions, cognitive patterns, and behavioral patterns people manifest in certain situations. CBT is a goal-oriented therapy that focuses on several different factors that influence people and their psychological condition. When it comes to identifying antisocial behaviors that are considered psychological disorders, current research shows that both genetic risk factors and environmental risk factors are equally accountable for the development of psychological disorders (Moffit, 2005). CBT focuses mainly on removing limiting beliefs, learning new behavioral patterns, and building psychological resilience to external risk factors. Because it is a form of guided self-help therapy, it has proven successful in dealing with several types of psychological disorders, such as emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD), in various empirical researches, and its approach can be used in different social settings (as cited in Gresham, Cook, & Crews, 2004).
All people have emotions, but all people adopt different methods of expressing them during childhood. If people express their emotional state in a way that implicates their functionality in society or potentially endanger themselves and others, they display socially deviant behavior, so it is possible to conclude that personal emotions and thoughts influence social behavior in individuals. Although adults can often differentiate among the aforementioned components, young children find it hard to differentiate between emotions and behaviors. For example, a child can be aware of their emotional state, but they will not be able to correlate it with their behavioral patterns. With CBT, it is possible to identify cognitive patterns that influence behavioral patterns, so it is an effective method for teaching children with EBD to control and express their emotions in an appropriate manner.
Although there are some stereotypes about positive and negative emotions, it is not possible to define emotions as completely negative or completely positive. All people eventually encounter both positive and negative emotions, but those who are not diagnosed with psychological disorders have a higher capability to control them. For example, some people will take a deep breath before they lose control. When it comes to dealing with children who suffer from EBD, teachers can use the functional behavioral assessment (FBA) because it can evaluate causes, symptoms, and consequences of particular behavior (Mauro, 2011). These types of assessments are used for students who display challenging behavior or lack of emotional control. Again, CBT can prove useful because emotions originate from the human brain and its cognitive patterns, so it is possible to conclude that mental psychological states and emotional states have a high level of correlation.
If people are obsessed with negative thoughts, they will eventually change their mental and emotional state, and those states will become chronic conditions. Because negative thoughts and emotions are rarely discussed, they often remain suppressed and continue to influence social behavior independently. All social agents, including parents, school, media, and religion, are equally responsible in shaping stereotypes about acceptable emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. With so many conflicting messages, it is not possible to develop a healthy psychological state without cognitive and emotional internal conflicts. It is amazing to see the number of kids that commit suicide these days. What was wrong? Were they getting bullied? We need to prevent more suicides from occurring. As parents, we are busy; some of us even have two jobs. We are doing the best we can, but we still must remember that our children need to know that we are there for them. They need to and should be comfortable to come to us or their teachers for anything. I would tell my students that I am not just their teacher, but I am there to be their friend who will help them through the hardships in life. My students will be treated like I treat my own child.
When it comes to planning the curriculum, teachers need to consider the needs of our students with EBD. All of our students should get along, feel safe, comfortable, and secure around one another. When developing lessons, it is important to remember how collaboration and student involvement create an environment where students can enhance their interest, focus, learning capabilities, and also understand the importance of a life-long learning experience. Newer generations enjoy learning about the real life applications of knowledge, so it is important to cover those aspects through constructing creative lesson plans with games that increase the children’s interest in the topic and participation in class.
Although the aforementioned approach decreases deviant behavior, dealing with deviant behavior is occasionally inevitable, and teachers are required to know how to respond in those situations. For example, a teacher is going over a lecture and two students start arguing. The teacher should let them argue as long as the situation is under control, and then offer a lesson about what causes such behavior, how they feel as a consequence, and anything else that can help them raise awareness about their behavioral patterns because self-awareness is crucial for self-help, and that is the foundation of CBT for solving issues such as EBD. When they are done the teacher can go around the room and ask the students if the situation was handled appropriately or inappropriately. The students can express their opinions, and the teacher will tell them what would have been the appropriate way to solve it if it had not been solved correct the first time. This will make the class fun and relieve some tension amongst the students.
Teaching social skills is imperative because it is not possible for every individual to live by a personal set of rules regardless of the environment. We must teach children how to interact with others and why proper interaction with other people helps create a functional society. Although environmental factors are not under personal control, all people can learn how to control their thoughts and emotions, and all people can learn self-control through guided CBT or from other social agents if they are capable of conveying emotional and mental maturity to children. When people focus on improving themselves, they remain consistent despite environmental influences. Regardless of classes and grades, teaching proper behavior to prevent the development and growth of EBD is the responsibility of every teacher (Watson, 2011).
As it was mentioned before, it is not possible to separate emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It is also not possible to condemn several types of negative emotions and thoughts. However, all people need to know how to deal with them to prevent harmful and destructive behaviors arising from those emotions or thoughts. Proper guidance in life is the main factor in determining personal development, and it can occur in school, at home, or in a professional setting. Although changes are difficult, CBT allows therapists to combine several approaches simultaneously, so those interventions have a higher chance of success if they are applied properly (Gresham et al., 2004). Behavior is caused by emotions, so solving emotions would cause deviant behavior to diminish. However, current studies agree that interactions among physiological, psychological, and environmental factors cause personal development and behavior altogether (Moffit, 2005). The advantage of CBT is that it combines several approaches in compliance with individual situations, and it requires a collaborative relationship between therapists and clients, so its concepts can be applied in other settings. CBT is also suitable for group sessions, so its concepts can be applied in class for the purpose of teaching and dealing with students who suffer from EBD and help them overcome their limitations and increase the amount of positive outcomes in class.
Gresham, F. M., Cook, C. R., & Crews, S. D. (2004). Social skills training for children and youth with emotional and behavioral disorders: Validity considerations and future directions. Behavioral Disorders, 30(1), 32-46.
Mauro, T. (2011). Functional behavioral assessment. About.com. Retrieved from http://specialchildren.about.com/od/fba/g/FBA.htm
Moffitt, T. E. (2005). The new look of behavioral genetics in developmental psychopathology: Gene-environment interplay in antisocial behaviors. Psychological Bulletin, 131(4), 533-554. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.131.4.533
Watson, S. (2011). Teaching social skills helps reduce behavior incidents. About.com. Retrieved from http://specialed.about.com/cs/behaviordisorders/a/social.htm