The Origins and Types of Behavioral Therapy Research Paper

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Behavioral therapy has its roots in basic behaviorism, the principle that human behavior can be modified through systematic training or interventions. Since B.F. Skinner first laid the foundations for behaviorism through experimentation, the methods used in behavioral therapy have changed dramatically. Behavioral therapy, or behavior therapy, is not one but a variety of approaches that psychological counselors use to help clients change their behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017) advocates the use of behavior therapy as an “effective treatment for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),” (p. 1).

Behavior therapies are designed not just to change target behaviors but also to change the ways people feel about themselves and the world, which is why behavior therapy can improve self-esteem (Herkov, 2016). Some of the most common approaches to behavioral therapy fall under the rubric of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is used in a variety of clinical settings. In fact, Craske (2010) claims cognitive-behavioral therapy is “the most popular model of psychotherapy used in contemporary clinical practice,” (p. 17). The literature on cognitive-behavioral therapy shows that it can be effective for multiple types of clinical disorders from addictions and mood disorders to psychotic disorders like schizophrenia (Butler, Chapman, Forman & Beck, 2006). All types of behavior therapies use the underlying principles of basic behaviorism, including positive and negative reinforcement.

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The first stage in any behavioral therapy is self-monitoring and self-awareness (Herkov, 2016). When the client is a young child, such as a child with ADHD, the parents can help the child develop the necessary self-awareness to make the behavioral interventions work. In fact, behavioral therapy for ADHD is most effective when it is delivered by parents (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). Behavioral therapy can be an effective substitute for pharmacological interventions and also precludes the need for ongoing psychoanalysis. A meta-analysis of studies on the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy on anxiety disorder showed that behavioral approaches have much stronger long-term effects than pharmacological solutions (Butler, Chapman, Forman & Beck, 2006). Therefore, behavioral therapies offer long-term and solution-focused options for clients.

After initial self-monitoring and assessment, a therapist helps the client to set behavioral change goals. Often, those goals will be highly specific such as smoking cessation within a certain time frame. The therapist might work with the client to develop a schedule and new routines to inculcate the behavioral changes. As Skinner showed with his dog and bell experiments rewards are critical for reinforcing desirable behaviors. The behavioral….....

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Butler, A.C., Chapman, J.E., Forman, E.M. & Beck, A.T. (2006). The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Clinical Psychological Review 26(1): 17-31.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Behavior therapy for young children with ADHD. Retrieved online:

Craske, M.G. (2010). Theories of psychotherapy. Cognitive–behavioral therapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Hayes, S.C. (2004). Acceptance and commitment therapy, relational frame theory, and the third wave of behavioral and cognitive therapies. Behavior Therapy 35, 629-665.

Herkov, M. (2016). About Behavior Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 7, 2017, from

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