Behavioural therapy is focused on human behaviour and looks to eradicate unwanted or maladaptive behaviour. This type of therapy is usually used for those with behavioural problems or mental health conditions that involve unwanted behaviour, such as addictions, anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Practitioners of behavioural therapy believe that behaviour is learned and can therefore be un-learned via therapy. As well as the behaviour itself, behavioural therapists look at the thoughts and feelings that lead to the behaviour, or occur as a result of the behaviour to understand it on a deeper level. There are certain issues that respond particularly well to this type of therapy.
Behavioural therapy is an action-based therapy that looks to foster positive behaviour change. Other therapies such as psychoanalytic therapy tend to be more focused on insight and delving into the past. In behavioural therapy, the past is still important as it often reveals where and when the unwanted behaviour was learned, however it looks more so at present behaviour and ways in which it can be rectified.
The premise behind behavioural therapy is that behaviour can be both learned and un-learned. The goal is to help the individual learn new, positive behaviours which will minimise or eliminate the issue. There are various ways this can be done depending on the problem itself.
There are two key principles that form the foundations of behavioural therapy - classical conditioning and operant conditioning.
Behavioural therapy that is based on classical conditioning uses a number of techniques to bring about behaviour change. Originally this type of therapy was known as behaviour modification, but these days it is usually referred to as applied behaviour analysis. The various methods of changing behaviour include:
Operant conditioning uses techniques such as positive reinforcement, punishment and modelling to help alter behaviour. The following strategies may be used within this type of therapy:
Behavioural therapy works best for mental health conditions that cause unwanted behaviour.
In some cases behavioural therapy works well alone, however many find integrative therapies (like cognitive behavioural therapy) to be more appropriate.
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