What is behavioural therapy?
Behavioural therapy tends to view human beings and behaviour with the assumption that humans are a product of their social and cultural conditioning and environment, looking at the current problems and the factors influencing them and emphasizes behaviour changes more than the underlying unconscious processes. As a result, behaviour therapists utilize therapy through a systematic and structured approach.
Behavioural therapy began in the 1950s and early 1960s as a response to psychoanalytic therapy and typically is best understood as a combination of 3 key components.
Learning through association – think of the famous example of Pavlov’s dogs who would naturally salivate then they were presented with food. Pavlov also rang a bell when the food was presented, eventually the dogs would salivate without food being present, but at the sound of the bell because of its association with food.
Also called instrumental conditioning, is a system of learning that uses punishments and rewards. Often used with children – for example, good behaviour is rewarded with a treat while bad behaviour is punished with a time-out.
Cognitive trend in behavioural therapy.
This new cognitive trend includes the thinking processes, attitudes and values which typically impact an individual.
How does behavioural therapy work?
Most of the characteristics involving behavioural therapy focus on changing self-destructive or problematic behaviours through purposely and systematically applied concepts. Behavioural therapy also looks at your current problems and the factors influencing them and emphasizes noticeable and obvious behaviour changes more than your underlying unconscious processes.
Typically, treatment goals are more concrete and objective with a strong focus on measuring progress over time. Ultimately, the goal of therapy is to create new learning and/or new conditions for learning that will ultimately impact the problem behaviour. This usually occurs after formulating goals which can be measured.
When is behavioural therapy used?
Behavioural therapy is used for an extremely wide range of mental health concerns and disorders including:
- Adolescent and teen issues
- Anger management
- Bruxism (teeth grinding)
- Eating disorders
- Personality disorders
- Cognitive disabilities
- Coping with physical health challenges
- Coping with mental health challenges
- Communications disorders
- Conduct disorder
- Dealing with aging parents
- Mental health disorders
- Children’s mental health concerns
- Gender identity
- LGBTQ2S+ issues
- Grief and loss
- Postpartum depression
- Self esteem issues
- Family issues
This type of therapy may be used to treat other conditions and concerns in addition to those listed above. It may also be used in conjunction with other treatment methods. Your therapist will work with you to determine the best treatment method for your individual circumstances.
You should be aware that there is no treatment method that is successful for every person. What works for you, may not work for someone else.
What to expect from therapy
Put simply, you will get out of therapy what you put into it. It’s not a magic solution that will solve all your problems. It may involve you doing some real work and being completely honest with yourself and your therapist. Sometimes facing our truth is the hardest thing of all – but from that discomfort can come healing and growth.