Behavioral therapy is just that, a therapy that focuses on people’s behavior. And look to change unwanted behaviors or a maladaptation. It is generally used in people with behavioral or mental health problems. Such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addictions, or phobias. Behavioral therapy is one that is based on action and aims to promote behavior change to a positive one. Another type of therapy such as psychoanalytic tends to be more focused on knowledge and delves into the past of patients. Whereas in behavioral therapy, the past is still important, but it focuses more on current behavior and the ways it can be rectified. One of the objectives of this therapy is that the person is trained so that he learns to change certain behaviors and modify them. Thus, to be able to eliminate the problems.

There are 2 fundamental principles that form the basis of behavioral therapy.

  • Classical conditioning.
  • Operant conditioning.


Classical conditioning

Behavioral therapy based on classical conditioning uses a number of techniques to affect behavior change. Originally, this type of therapy was known as behavior modification. Different methods of behavior change include:


  • Flooding: Flooding is a process that is generally used for people with anxiety or phobias. It consists of exposing the individual to situations or objects that they fear in an intense and fast way. The idea is that the person cannot escape the situation during the process and therefore must face their fear. Clearly, this method may only be suitable for certain situations.
  • Systematic desensitization: This method works on a similar premise to the previous one. But it is more gradual. The therapist may begin by asking the patient to write a list of the fears he has. Once the list is obtained, the therapist teaches the patient relaxation techniques for the person to use while thinking about the list of fears. This pairing of the element that induces fear and relaxation behavior, aims to eliminate the phobia or anxiety.
  • Aversion therapy: It is based on changing the unwanted behavior accompanying it with some form of aversive stimulus with the aim of reducing the unwanted behavior. An example of how this is used is when an alcoholic is prescribed a certain drug that induces nausea or headaches, of course, when combined with alcohol. This means that every time the person drinks, they get negative side effects.


Operant behavior

Operant conditioning uses techniques such as positive reinforcement, punishment, and modeling to help modify behavior. Strategies that can be used within this type of therapy:

  • Token economy: Individuals are offered tokens that can be exchanged for privileges or desired items when positive behavior is exhibited. This is one of the techniques that parents or teachers use the most to improve children’s behavior.
  • Contingency management: Contingency management involves a written contract between therapist and patient. Goals, penalties, and rewards are outlined. Having this type of agreement helps the patient change his behavior and gives him responsibility.
  • Modeling: This involves learning through observation and limiting others. Having a positive role model can give people something to aspire to which allows them to change behavior and thus match the role model.
  • Extinction: This works by eliminating any type of reinforcement in negative behavior. For example, a child who has bad behavior. By removing him from the situation, the bad behavior must stop.

Behavioral therapy works best for mental health problems that create misbehavior. For example, addictions, phobias, anxiety and stress. Behavior therapy itself works, however many therapists think that cognitive behavioral therapy works best for treating these conditions.

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