Menzies – Youth (August 2023)

CBT@Home webinar series

Learning the hard way: lessons from working with troubled youth

Professor Ross G Menzies, University of Technology Sydney


This approx. 1h6min CBT@Home webinar was recorded in August 2023 and is the presentation of his address as the 2022 Distinguished Career Award winner. AACBT members can view for free. Non-members may purchase here.


Helping troubled youth requires a broad understanding of the inherent problems of growing up. In this novel presentation, Professor Menzies explores the ‘existential givens’ and the role they play in youth mental health.

Young people enter therapy with a range of problems of living. They don’t speak in diagnostic terms, but instead focus on the everyday difficulties that confront them. These difficulties may include isolation, loneliness, anxiety and sadness, guilt and regret, and problems making decisions in a world that offers seemingly endless choice. In contrast, the cognitive-behaviour therapist is trained in the language of conditioning and extinction, avoidance and safety behaviours, behavioural activation and attentional biases. This presentation explores the ideas of the existentialist philosophers as a bridge between suffering youth and technically trained clinicians. The talk seeks to place CBT in the broader context of the most popular philosophic tradition of the 19th and 20th centuries. Finally, the presentation offers a personal reflection on more than three decades of clinical work with troubled youth. Professor Menzies offers advice for the developing clinician centring on the need for warmth, empathy, validation, and the use of creative activities in motivating this population.


Biographical notes:

Professor Ross Menzies is a clinical psychologist in the Graduate School of Health at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). He is the past National President of the Australian Association for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (AACBT), Convenor of the 8th World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies, and Treasurer of the World Confederation of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies (WCCBT). He continues active research in anxiety and mental health and has published a dozen books and more than 200 journal papers and book chapters. He has received continuous national, competitive grant funding for over three decades and has a strong interest in existential issues and their relationship to mental health conditions.


Key Learning Objectives:

  1. A framework for conceptualising the broad range of problems that young people face.
  2. An understanding of the relationship between contemporary CBT and existentialism.
  3. A clearer understanding of the range of transdiagnostic constructs applicable to youth mental health.

Select readings:


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