The term Behaviour therapy includes a number of therapeutic methods based on the principles of learning and conditioning. The Modern Behaviour therapy began with works of B.F Skinner and Joseph Wolpe. Behaviour therapies attempt to modify Behaviours that are maladaptive in specific situations. Often we understand why we behave the way we do in a certain situation but are unable to change our Behaviour a behaviour therapy helps us to do the same with ease.
What to expect?
In the initial session, the therapist listens carefully to the client’s statement of the problem. The first step is to define the problem clearly and break it down into a set of specific therapeutic goals. If, for example, the client complains of general feelings of inadequacy, the therapist will try to get the client to describe these feelings more specifically: to pinpoint the kinds of situations in which they occur and the kinds of Behaviours associated with them. Inadequate to do what? To speak up in class or in social situations? To get assignments completed on time? To control eating? Once the Behaviours that need to be modified have been specified, the therapist and client together work out a treatment program, choosing the treatment method that is most appropriate for the particular problem.
How it works?
Behaviour Therapy employs the following techniques:
Systematic desensitization is method of gradually reducing fearful responses to stimuli and overcoming the maladaptive Behaviours that often accompany fear, such as avoidance of feared situations. The client is first trained to relax deeply so that he or she can use relaxation techniques to reduce fearful responses. One way to relax is to progressively tense then relax various muscles, starting, for example, with the feet and ankles and proceeding up the body to the neck and face. The person learns how to discriminate among various degrees of tension and what muscles feel like when they are truly relaxed.
The next step is to create a hierarchy of the anxiety producing situations. The situations are ranked one after the other, in order from the one that produces the least anxiety to the one that produces the most. In systematic desensitization, the client is then asked to relax and imagine each situation in the hierarchy, starting with the one that is least anxiety producing.
In vivo exposure is a method almost similar to systematic desensitization that requires actual exposure of the client to the anxiety-producing situations. In vivo exposure is more effective than simply imagining anxiety-producing situations, most of the clients initially begins with imagination and eventually move to actually experiencing feared situations.
During in vivo exposure, the woman would actually experience each of the situations on her list, beginning with the least feared one, with the coaching of the therapist. The specific learning process operating in in vivo exposure may be extinction. Exposing oneself to a fear arousing stimulus and discovering that nothing bad happens extinguishes the conditioned fear response.
Flooding is used to refer to this procedure, a type of in vivo therapy in which a phobic individual is exposed to the most feared object or situation for an extended period without an opportunity to escape. This approach has proved to be particularly effective in the treatment of agoraphobia and obsessive-compulsive disorders (Foa & Franklin, 2001).
Selective reinforcement is a technique designed to strengthen or increase specific desired Behaviours. Reinforcement of desirable responses can be accompanied by Extinction of undesirable ones. Operant conditioning procedures involving rewards for desirable responses and no rewards for undesirable ones have been used successfully in dealing with a broad range of childhood problems, including bed-wetting, aggression, tantrums, disruptive classroom Behaviour, poor school performance, and social withdrawal. Similar
procedures have been used in treating autism.
Modeling is the process by which a person learns Behaviours by observing and imitating others. Because observing others is a major way in which humans learn,watching people who are displaying adaptive Behaviour should teach people with maladaptive responses better strategies. Observing the Behaviour of a model (either live or videotaped) has proved effective in reducing fears and teaching new skills.
Behavioural rehearsal, In a therapy session, modeling is often combined with Behavioural rehearsal, or role playing. The therapist helps the client rehearse or practice more adaptive Behaviours. By practicing assertive responses, the individual not only reduces anxiety but also develops more effective coping techniques. The therapist determines the kinds of situations in which the person is passive and then helps him or her think of and practice some assertive responses that might be effective.
Because the client and therapist seldom meet more than once per week, the client must learn to control or regulate his or her own Behaviour so that progress can be made outside the therapy hour. Moreover, if people feel that they are themselves responsible for their own improvement, they are more likely to maintain whatever gains they make.
Self-regulation involves monitoring, or observing, one’s own Behaviour and using various techniques, including self-reinforcement, and exposure to feared situations while practicing relaxation strategies, to change maladaptive Behaviour.
Self-reinforcement is rewarding yourself immediately for achieving a specific goal. The reward could be praising yourself, watching a favorite television program, telephoning a friend, or eating a favorite food.
Self-punishment is arranging for an aversive consequence for failing to achieve a goal, such as depriving yourself of something you enjoy (not watching a favorite television program, for instance) or making yourself do an unpleasant task (such as cleaning your room). Depending on the kind of Behaviour you want to change, various combinations of self-reinforcement, self-punishment, or control of stimuli and responses may be used.
Premack Principle is named after it’s originator refers to the phenomena when the therapist utilizes a frequently occurring response as a positive reinforcement for response that is desirable but occurs less frequently. Reciprocal inhibition also known as Counter Conditioning decreases or eliminates a behaviour by introducing a more adaptive behaviour.
When it is used?
Behaviour therapy has proven effective for several of the anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorders (Rothbaum & Osalov, 2006; Turner, 2006), for depression (Dimidjian et al., 2006), for problems in sexual functioning (Gambescia & Weeks, 2007), and for several childhood disorders (Kazdin & Weisz, 2003).
Role of a Behaviour therapist:
Behaviour therapists assume that maladaptive behaviours are learned ways of coping with stress. They employ some of the techniques (developed in experimental research on learning) which can be used to substitute maladaptive behaviours with the one that is more adaptive.