Behavior therapy is focused on helping an individual understand how changing their behavior can lead to changes in how they are feeling. The goal of behavior therapy is usually focused on increasing the person’s engagement in positive or socially reinforcing activities. Behavior therapy is a structured approach that carefully measures what the person is doing and then seeks to increase chances for positive experience. Common techniques include:
Self-Monitoring — This is the first stage of treatment. The person is asked to keep a detailed log of all of their activities during the day. By examining the list at the next session, the therapist can see exactly what the person is doing.
Example — Bill, who is being seen for depression, returns with his self-monitoring list for the past week. His therapist notices that it consists of Bill going to work in the morning, returning home at 5:30 p.m. and watching television uninterrupted until 11 p.m. and then going to bed.
Schedule of Weekly Activities — This is where the patient and therapist work together to develop new activities that will provide the patient with chances for positive experience.
Example — Looking at his self-monitoring sheet, Bill and his therapist determine that watching so much television alone gives little opportunity for positive social interaction. Therefore, they decide that Bill will have dinner out with a friend once a week after work and join a bowling league.
Role Playing — This is used to help the person develop new skills and anticipate issues that may come up in social interactions.
Example — One of the reasons that Bill stays home alone so much is that he is shy around people. He does not know how to start a conversation with strangers. Bill and his therapist work on this by practicing with each other on how to start a conversation.
Behavior Modification — In this technique the patient will receive a reward for engaging in positive behavior.
Example — Bill wants a new fishing rod. He and his therapist set up a behavior modification contract where he will reward himself with a new fishing rod when he reduces his TV watching to one hour a day and becomes involved in three new activities.
Herkov, M. (2006). About Behavior Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 3, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/about-behavior-therapy/000669
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
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