Cognitive therapy is based on the view that stressful states such as depression, anxiety and anger are often maintained or exacerbated by exaggerated or biased ways of thinking. Cognitive therapy and cognitive restructuring in particular aims to help the client recognise their own idiosyncratic ways of thinking and modify them through the application of evidence and logic (Leahy, 2003).

Cognitive restructuring techniques are particularly relevant for clients affected by trauma, or negative experiences. Beliefs about the world and self become distorted. While they definitely have a basis in personal experience, they can easily become excessive or extreme and limit the ability of the young person to function well or learn new skills. The severity of posttraumatic difficulties, including depression, anxiety and excessive fear, is related to the frequency and pervasiveness of negative, self-defeating beliefs (Gray, Maguen, & Litz, 2007; p86).