In detail

Behavioral Therapy: bases and foundations

Behavioral Therapy: bases and foundations

As the name implies, the Behavioral Therapy focuses on human behavior and look to eradicate unwanted behavior or poor adaptation. Normally this type of therapy is used for people with behavioral problems or mental health problems that involve unwanted behavior. Examples of this include the addictions, anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The Behavioral Therapy is an action based treatment It aims to promote positive behavior change. Other therapies such as psychoanalytic therapy tend to be more focused on knowledge and deepen the past. In behavioral therapy, the past is still important, as it often reveals where and when unwanted behavior arose, however, it focuses more on current behavior and the ways in which it can be rectified.

The premise behind Behavioral Therapy is that behavior can be learned and modified at the same time. The goal is to help the individual learn new positive behaviors, which minimize or eliminate the problem.

There are two fundamental principles that form the basis of Behavioral Therapy - classical conditioning and the operant conditioning.


  • 1 The classic conditioning
  • 2 Operating conditioning
  • 3 Behavioral Therapy for mental health problems

Classic conditioning

Behavioral Therapy that is based on classical conditioning uses a series of techniques to carry out behavior change. Originally, this type of therapy is known as the behavior modification, but these days it is usually known as applied behavior analysis. The various methods of behavior change include:

  • Flood: Flooding is a process that is generally used for people with phobias and anxiety and involves exposing the individual to objects / situations that they fear in an intense and fast way. The idea is that the person cannot escape the object / situation during the process and therefore must face his fear. Obviously, this method may only be suitable for certain situations.
  • Systematic desensitization: This technique works on a premise similar to the previous one, however, but it is more gradual. The therapist could start by asking the person to write a list of the fears they have. Once this list is written, the therapist will teach you relaxation techniques for the individual to use while thinking about the list of fears. This pairing of the element that induces fear and relaxation behavior, aims to eliminate phobia or anxiety.
  • Aversion therapy: It is based on eradicating undesirable behavior by accompanying it in some form of aversive stimulus in order to reduce unwanted behavior. An example of how this is used is when an alcoholic is prescribed a certain drug that induces nausea, anxiety and headaches when combined with alcohol. This means that every time the person drinks, they get negative side effects.

Operant conditioning

The operant conditioning It uses techniques such as positive reinforcement, punishment and modeling to help modify behavior. The following strategies can be used within this type of therapy:

  • The chip economy: This strategy is based on positive reinforcement: individuals are offered tokens that can be exchanged for privileges or desired elements when positive behavior is exhibited. This is a tactic widely used by parents and teachers to help improve children's behavior.
  • Contingency Management: Contingency management involves a written contract between the therapist and the individual that describes the goals, rewards and penalties. Having this type of agreement clear helps to change behavior and add a sense of responsibility.
  • Modeling: Modeling involves learning by observing and imitating others. Having a positive model can give people something to aspire to allowing them to change their behavior to match their model.
  • Extinction: Extinction works by eliminating any type of reinforcement for negative behavior. An example of this would be a child who has bad behavior. Taking it out of the situation (and the attention associated with it) the behavior must stop.

Behavioral Therapy for mental health problems

The Behavioral Therapy It works best for mental health conditions that cause unwanted behavior. Examples of this would be addictions, anxiety, phobias and OCD. In many cases, Behavioral Therapy works well on its own, however many therapists find that integration therapies (such as cognitive behavioral therapy) are more effective for treatment.

All Psychological Therapies