Helping Youth Through Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Behavioral Health Sciences instructor Michael Tompkins believes in early intervention

“Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the most studied psychotherapy that we have,” says Behavioral Health Sciences instructor Michael Tompkins, Ph.D., ABPP. Along with its empirical approach to therapy, Tompkins was drawn to how it can help people.

“The cognitive-behavioral model assumes that it’s not the things that trouble us but our view of things that troubles us. Therefore, Cognitive Behavior Therapy focuses on helping people modify their thinking in order to moderate their feelings, and ultimately change their behaviors, so that they can live meaningful and fulfilling lives. CBT also teaches people skills that they can apply to the problems in their lives—life skills, how to organize tasks, to be assertive, to manage time, as well as to approach rather than avoid the things that frighten them.”

Dr. Tompkins has had a long career, specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders in adults, adolescents and children:

And Dr. Tompkins brings all of that real-world experience to the classroom—no wonder he’s been recognized twice (in 2005 and 2006) as a UC Berkeley Extension Honored Instructor.

CBT in the Classroom

“Many, if not most, psychological problems begin in childhood,” says Dr. Tompkins. “For example, anxiety disorders typically begin in childhood and is the most common psychological problem for youth. Helping youth overcome a problem that begins in childhood can change the course of their lives. It’s about early intervention.

1. “Anxiety is the number one mental health issue that affects kids. Cognitive behavior therapy is the psychological treatment of choice for anxiety disorders, so most of the youth I see likely have an anxiety disorder,” he adds.

2. According to Tompkins, youth are particularly susceptible to anger and aggression issues. Why? Youth are often impulsive, and with few emotion-regulation skills, aggression often follows anger. CBT can provide the help they need with anger management and control.

3. “Sleep is the most sensitive measure of well-being; people who are anxious, depressed or stressed are likely not sleeping well,” Dr. Tompkins points out. “Cognitive behavior therapy is very effective in helping people with insomnia sleep better. More than half of teens who are 15 years old or older are getting less than six hours of sleep. Sleep-deprived teens are at risk for mood problems and memory and learning difficulties. Early school start times, social media, electronic devices, late-night homework and an irregular sleep pattern contribute to teens being the highest risk group for inadequate sleep.”

The Importance of Continuing Education

In California, the Board of Psychology requires licensed therapists and psychologists to complete 36 hours of Continuing Education (CE) credit for each two-year renewal period. But psychology students and professionals shouldn’t look at maintaining a license as the only reason for enrolling in CE courses.

“Continuing education is a vital part of maintaining an informed, ethical and viable career as a mental health professional,” says Tompkins. “Every day, clinical science delivers to us a new finding or a new treatment or a modification of a current treatment that we can use to help people suffer less. Furthermore, the pace of these changes seems to be accelerating, and continuing education can help us stay informed about these innovations.”


Cognitive-Behavior Therapy for Anger and Aggression in Youth takes place on February 2.

Enroll now!