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Behavior Therapy

Source: Corey, G. Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy, 9th Ed

Basic Philosophy Behavior is the product of learning. We are both the product and the
producer of the environment. Traditional behavior therapy is based on
classical and operant principles. Contemporary behavior therapy has
branched out in many directions.
Key Concepts Focus is on overt behavior, precision in specifying goals of treatment,
development of specifi c treatment plans, and objective evaluation of
therapy outcomes. Present behavior is given attention. Therapy is based
on the principles of learning theory. Normal behavior is learned through
reinforcement and imitation. Abnormal behavior is the result of faulty

Goals of Therapy To eliminate maladaptive behaviors and learn more effective behaviors.
To identify factors that infl uence behavior and find out what can be
done about problematic behavior. To encourage clients to take an active
and collaborative role in clearly setting treatment goals and evaluating
how well these goals are being met.
Therapeutic Relationship The therapist is active and directive and functions as a teacher or mentor
in helping clients learn more effective behavior. Clients must be active in
the process and experiment with new behaviors. Although a quality
clienttherapist relationship is not viewed as suffi cient to bring about
change, it is considered essential for implementing behavioral
Techniques of Therapy The main techniques are reinforcement, shaping, modeling, systematic
desensitization, relaxation methods, fl ooding, eye movement and
desensitization reprocessing, cognitive restructuring, assertion and social
skills training, self-management programs, mindfulness and acceptance
methods, behavioral rehearsal, coaching, and various multimodal therapy
techniques. Diagnosis or assessment is done at the outset to determine a
treatment plan. Questions concentrate on what, how, and when
(but not why). Contracts and homework assignments are also typically

Application A pragmatic approach based on empirical validation of results. Enjoys

wide applicability to individual, group, couples, and family counseling.
Some problems to which the approach is well suited are phobic
disorders, depression, trauma, sexual disorders, childrens behavioral
disorders, stuttering, and prevention of cardiovascular disease. Beyond
clinical practice, its principles are applied in fields such as pediatrics,
stress management, behavioral medicine, education, and geriatrics.

Contribution Emphasis is on assessment and evaluation techniques, thus providing a

basis for accountable practice. Specific problems are identified, and
clients are kept informed about progress toward their goals. The
approach has demonstrated effectiveness in many areas of human
functioning. The roles of the therapist as reinforcer, model, teacher, and
consultant are explicit. The approach has undergone extensive
expansion, and research literature abounds. No longer is it a mechanistic
approach, for it now makes room for cognitive factors and encourages
self-directed programs for behavioral change.

Limitation Major criticisms are that it may change behavior but not feelings; that it
ignores the relational factors in therapy; that it does not provide insight;
that it ignores historical causes of present behavior; that it involves
control by the therapist; and that it is limited in its capacity to address
certain aspects of the human condition.