Behavioural therapy is focused on human behaviour and looks to eradicate maladaptive or unwanted behaviours, such as addictions, anxiety, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Behaviour therapists believe that behaviour is learned and can, therefore, be unlearned. As well as the specific behaviour itself, the behaviour therapist will look at the thoughts and feelings that lead to the behaviour, or occur as a result of the behaviour, to better understand what is going on for you.
Behaviour therapy is an action-based therapy aiming to foster positive behaviour change through applied behaviour analysis, cognitive behavioural therapy, and social learning theory. Behavioural therapists will typically use the principles of both operant and classical conditioning during therapy.
Classical conditioning encompasses various methods such as:
- Flooding: exposure to feared objects or situations
- systematic desensitisation: a gradual version of flooding
- and aversion therapy: pairing undesirable behaviours with some form of aversion stimulus to reduce the unwanted behaviour.
Operant conditioning uses techniques such as positive reinforcement, punishment, and modelling to help alter behaviour. Some of these strategies include:
- token economies: tokens that can be exchanged for privileges or desired items, this is common in parenting and teaching
- contingency management: a written contract between you and your therapist outlining goals, rewards, and penalties – this increases a sense of accountability
- modelling: learning through observing and imitation of others
- and extinction: removing any type of reinforcement to behaviour