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Behavioral Therapy

What is Behavioral Therapy?

Behavioral Therapy is practiced by behaviorists who believe that all behavior is learned, behaviors can be changed, and don’t believe that personality comes from traits.  The major theorist is B.F. Skinner who is a behavioral determinist.  His discoveries along with his knowledge progressed into theories in which eventually turned into a way of therapy.  This theory is categorized into three different models; stimulus-response model, applied behavioral analysis, and social cognitive theory.  All of these theories concentrate on behaviors and during therapy it is the professional’s job to focus on the client’s behaviors.  The professional should help the client learn how to get rid of old behaviors by changing their new behaviors which involves how they think and act which is the essence of Behavioral Therapy.

The stimulus response model is when a person learns a behavior not by choice but rather by association.  The association is made up of two stimuli thus the reason it is called stimulus response model.   The definition behind the stimulus response model in regards to behavior is that when a neutral stimulus turns into a learned stimulus linking to a natural stimulus.  Another way of explaining this model is when a neutral stimulus develops a conditioned stimulus because of an unconditioned stimulus.  Traumas, phobias, etc are often associated with a natural stimulus such as food or a smell.  Often times certain things trigger past events so when this is happening due to a negative past experience the therapist who is using this theory will come up with ways to unlink the paired associations. This is called counter conditioning.

The applied behavior analysis occurs in one’s main environment and focuses on how a person acts in their environment.  The main idea is that people learn behaviors due to rewards, punishments, and consequences.   People will associate certain behaviors depending on each outcome.  In behavioral therapy the therapist or counselor can teach the individual how to unlearn certain behaviors even if the behavior is applied behavior.

Social cognitive theory is learned behavior that is taught by observing other people in any environment.  This behavior is learned even though there is not direct outcome between the person who is observing and the behavior being observed.    Social cognitive theory has many advantages and can help tremendously during therapy.

What is the goal of Behavioral Therapy?

The goals in behavior therapy are well defined meaning behaviorists are able to be very specific with their clients during their entire relationship.  There are four main goals in behavior therapy.  The first goal is problem definition.  This goal needs to be very specific as the other goals count on this to achieve progress.  The next goal is the client’s history.  This goal measures the client’s development to learn if exactly how the behavior was taught to them.  After the history is defined the client and the counselor will then establish more specific goals in regards to their individual situation that resulted in the need of therapy.  The last goal is determining the best way for the client to change.  These little goals can be changed or modified throughout.

Behavior therapy has general and specific techniques.  This type of therapy and these techniques work extremely well with people who are focused and determined.  It may not work on clients who have more of a past and who aren’t as forward thinking.