Behavioral therapy is a term that describes a broad range of techniques used to change maladaptive behaviors. The goal is to reinforce desirable behaviors and eliminate unwanted ones.
Behavioral therapy is rooted in the principles of behaviorism, a school of thought focused on the idea that we learn from our environment. This approach emerged during the early part of the 20th-century and became a dominant force in the field for many years. Edward Thorndike was one of the first to refer to the idea of modifying behavior.
Unlike the types of therapy that are rooted in insight (such as psychoanalytic therapy and humanistic therapies), behavioral therapy is action-based. Because of this, behavioral therapy tends to be highly focused. The behavior itself is the problem and the goal is to teach people new behaviors to minimize or eliminate the issue.
Types of Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative behaviors that may be contributing to mental health issues. There are several types of behavioral therapy, each with its own unique approach to treatment.
– Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that uses operant conditioning to shape and modify problematic behaviors. ABA is commonly used to treat autism spectrum disorder, but it can also be helpful for other conditions, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety.
– Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that relies on behavioral techniques, but adds a cognitive element, focusing on the problematic thoughts behind behaviors. CBT is often used to treat anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.
– Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy
Cognitive behavioral play therapy utilizes play to assess, prevent, or treat psychosocial challenges. This approach is particularly effective for children, as play can help them express their thoughts and feelings in a non-threatening way.
– Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a form of CBT that utilizes both behavioral and cognitive techniques to help people learn to manage their emotions, cope with distress, and improve interpersonal relationships. DBT is particularly effective for treating borderline personality disorder, but it can also be helpful for other conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
– Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy utilizes behavioral techniques to help people overcome their fears of situations or objects. This approach incorporates techniques that expose people to the source of their fears while practicing relaxation strategies. Exposure therapy is useful for treating specific phobias and other forms of anxiety.
– Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) focuses on identifying negative or destructive thoughts and feelings. People then actively challenge those thoughts and replace them with more rational, realistic ones. REBT is often used to treat anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.
– Social Learning Theory
Social learning theory centers on how people learn through observation. Observing others being rewarded or punished for their actions can lead to learning and behavior change. This approach is often used to treat behavioral problems in children and adolescents.