Behavioral therapy, often referred to as behavior modification, is a therapeutic approach of altering a person's behaviors and reactions through positive and negative reinforcement. A simple example of positive reinforcement in behavior modification is providing compliments, approval, encouragement, and affirmation.
About Behavioral Therapy
The beginnings of behavioral therapy are found in the 1920s, however its comprehensive form did not emerge until the 1950s and 1960s. The primary contributors were Joseph Wolpe in South Africa, M.B. Shipiro and Hans Eysenck in Britain, and B. F. Skinner in the United States.
Behavioral therapy approaches rely on the principles of conditioning and social learning theory. Drawing on principles of behaviorism, behavioral therapy often focuses on behaviors that are observable and measurable, rather than on thoughts and feelings. However, newer forms of behavior therapy include a strong focus on thought and show that the idea that behavior therapy focuses only on publicly observable behavior is not correct.
The behavior therapist may use techniques such as contingency contracts, self-management, shaping, token economies, response cost, and biofeedback. For social learning theory techniques, counselors may use modeling, behavior practice groups, and role playing. Often behavioral therapy techniques are used in the treatment of choice for phobias and fetishes, and include techniques of systematic desensitization, flooding, counterconditioning, exposure, and aversive conditioning. Sometimes hypnosis or biofeedback are used to achieve relaxation as well.
Additionally, behavior therapy has been effective in treating eating disorders. Behavior therapy is one of the most scientifically validated approaches because of its emphasis on measurable and observable results. Increasingly, counselors and researchers are incorporating behavior modification techniques with other approaches (eclectic or multimodal approaches).
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