Token Economy System (Technique in Behavioral therapy)

What is the Token Economy System?

Behavioral therapy is an umbrella term for types of therapy that treat behavioral and mental health difficulties. This form of therapy seeks to identify and help change potentially negative behaviors. It functions on the idea that all behaviors are learned and can change maladaptive behaviors. The focus of treatment is often on current problems and how to change them. One useful technique commonly used in behavior therapy is the “token economy”. This system strengthens positive behavior and frequently therapists use it with children.

For a token economy to work, criteria have to be specific and clear. Sometimes client manuals have specifications such as “how many tokens can each target behavior earn ”. Sometimes the possibility of ‘punishment’ or ‘time out’ by token loss included, technically called ‘response cost’: disruptive behavior can be fined with the loss of tokens.

Tokens have no intrinsic value, but can be exchanged for other valued reinforcing events. Some possible reinforcers might be:

– Social reinforcement

Token reinforcement is essential but it always accompanies by social reinforcement. Also, Tokens intend to make reinforcement explicit and immediate and to strengthen behavior.

– Shaping

Don’t expect children to do everything perfectly at once but they can acquire behavior in steps. Initially, you can reinforce children for behavior that approaches the target.

– Immediacy of reinforcement

Reinforcement will greater influence behavior if given shortly after emitted the response. The longer children have to wait for a reward, the less effect and the less they will learn.

– Consistent application

The power of a token economy largely depends on the consistency of its application. When according to the system a child deserves tokens, he or she should get them, even when the therapist judges he or she doesn’t deserve them.

– Leveled system

Often, token economies are leveled programs. Children can pass through different levels until they reach the highest level. At that point, children perform behaviors without token reinforcement.

This technique is one of the most famous techniques in behavior therapy. It is very important to consider social and personal background prior to choosing a behavioral modification approach.

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