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Behaviour therapy

Behavior therapy is a form of psychotherapy used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, and other forms of psychopathology. Its philosophical roots can be found in the school of behaviorism, which states that psychological matters can be studied scientifically by observing overt behavior, without discussing internal mental states.



Possibly the first occurrence of "behavior therapy" was in a 1953 research project by B.F. Skinner, Ogden Lindsley, and Harry C. Solomon.[1] Other early pioneers in behavior therapy include Joseph Wolpe and Hans Eysenck.[2]

In general, behavior therapy is seen as having three distinct points of origin: South Africa (Wolpe's group), The United States (Skinner), and the United Kingdom (Rachman and Eysenck).Each had its own distinct approach to viewing behavior problems. Eysenck in particular viewed behavior problems as an interplay between personality characteristics and behavior[3]. Skinner's group in the United States took more of an operant conditioning focus. Skinner's student Ogden Lindsley is credited with forming a movement called precision teaching , which developed a particular type of graphing program called the standard celeration chart to monitor the progress of clients. Skinner became interested in the individualizing of programs for improved learning in those with or without disabilities and worked with Fred Kellar to develop programmed instruction. Programmed instruction had some clinical success in aphasia rehabilitation [4] Gerald Patterson used program instruction to develop his parenting text for children with conduct problems (see [5]

In the second half of the 20th century, behavior therapy was coupled with the cognitive therapy of Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis, to form cognitive behavioral therapy. In some areas the cognitive component had an additive effect (for example, sex offender treatment) but in other areas it did not enhance the treatment, which led to the pursuit of Third Generation Behavior Therapies.

Scientific basis

Behavior therapy is based upon the principles of classical conditioning developed by Ivan Pavlov and operant conditioning developed by B.F. Skinner. There has been up to now a good deal of confusion about how exactly these two conditionings differ and whether the various techniques of Behaviour Therapy have any common scientific base. One answer has come in the form of an online paper called Reinforcing Behaviour Therapy which more and more psychologists are now studying and appreciating.

Contingency management programs are a direct product of research from Operant conditioning. These programs have been highly successful. Even with adult who suffer from schizophrenia these programs produce results [6]

Systematic desensitization and exposure and response prevention both evolved from respondent conditioning and have also received considerable research.

Social skills training teaches clients skills to access reinforcers and lessen life punishment. Operant conditioning procedures in meta-analysis had the largest effect size for training social skills, followed by modeling, coaching, and social cognitive techniques in that order [7] Social skills training has some empirical support particularly for schizophrenia[8] [9] However, with schizoprehania behavioral programs in general have lost favor[10]

Applied to Problem Behavior

Behavior therapy based its core interventions on functional analysis. Just a few of the many problems that behavior therapy has created functional analysis for include intimacy in couples relationships[11] [12], [13]forgiveness in couples[14], stress related behavior problems of being an adult child of an alcoholic[15] ,chronic distress [16], substance abuse [17], depression [18] and obesity [19]

Functional analysis has even been applied to problems that therapists commonly encounter like client resistence [20][21]

Rise of a third generation of Behavior Therapy

Of particular interest, in behavior therapy today are the areas often referred to as Third Generation Behavior Therapy. [22]This movement has been called clinical behavior analysis because it represents a movement from cognitivism back toward radical behaviorism and other forms of behaviorism in particular functional analysis and behavioral models of language and cognition. This area includes Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Behavioral Activation (BA), Kohlenberg & Tsai's Functional Analytic Psychotherapy, integrative behavioral couples therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. These approaches are squarely within the applied behavior analysis tradition of behavior therapy.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is probably the most well research of all the third generation behavior therapy models. It is based on Relational Frame Theory [23]

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy is based on a functional analysis of the therapeutic relationship. [24] It places a greater emphasis on the therapeutic context and returns to the use of in session reinforcement [25]. In general, 40 years of research supports the idea that in session reinforcement of behavior can lead to behavior change [26]

Behavioral Activation emerged from a component analysis of cognitive behavior therapy. This research found no additive effect for the cognitive component [27]. Behavioral activation is based on a matching model of reinforcement[28]. A recent review of the research, supports the notion that the use of behavioral activation is clinically important for the treatment of depression [29]

Integrative behavioral couples therapy developed from dissatisfaction with traditional behavioral couples therapy. Integrative behavioral couples therapy looks at Skinner (1966) [30] the difference between contingency shaped and rule governed behavior. It couples this analysis with a thorough functional assessment of the couples relationship. Recent efforts have used radical behavioral concepts to interpret a number of clinical phenomena including forgiveness [31]


Many organizations exist for behavior therapist around the world. In the United States, the American Psychological Association's Division 25 is the division for behavior analysis. The Association for Contextual Behavior Therapy is another. ACBS is home to many with specific interest in third generation behavior therapy. The Association for Cognitive and Behavior Therapy (Formerly the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy] is for those with a more cognitive orientation. Internationally, most behavior therapists find a core intellectual home in the International Association of Behavior Analysis (ABA:I) [6]


See also


  1. ^ Lindsley, O., Skinner, B.F., Solomon, H.C.. "Studies in behavior therapy (Status Report I)". Walthama, MA.: Metropolitan State Hospital.
  2. ^ Clark, David M.; Christopher G. Fairburn (1997). Science and Practice of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192627260. 
  3. ^ Yates,, A.J.(1970). Behavior Therapy. New York Wiley
  4. ^ Goldfarb, R. (2006): Operant Conditioning and Programmed Instruction in Aphasia Rehabilitation - SLP-ABA, 1.(1), 56-65BAO
  5. ^ Patterson, G.R. (1969).Families: A social learning approach to family life.
  6. ^ Paul, G.L. & Lentz, R.J.(1977). Psychosocial treatment of chronic mental patients: Milue versus social learning programs. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  7. ^ Schnieder, B.H. & Bryne, B.M. (1985). Children's social skills training: A meta-analysis. In B.H. Schneider, K. Rubin, & J.E. Ledingham (Eds.) Children's Peer relations: Issues in assessment and intervention (pp. 175-190). New York: Springer-Verlag.
  8. ^ Corrigan, P.W. (1997). Behavior therapy empowers persons with severe mental illness. Behavior Modification, 21, 45-61
  9. ^ Corrigan, P.W. Holmes, E.P.(1994). Patient identification of "street skills" for a psychosocial training module. Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 45, 273-276.
  10. ^ Wong, S.E. (2006). Behavior Analysis of Psychotic Disorders: Scientific Dead End or Casualty of the Mental Health Political Economy? Behavior and Social Issues,15 (2),152-177 [1]
  11. ^ Cordova, J. (2003). Behavior Analysis and the Scientific Study of Couples. The Behavior Analyst Today, 3 (4), 412-419 [2]
  12. ^ Stuart, R.B. (1998). Updating Behavior Therapy with Couples. The Family Journal, 6(1), 6-12
  13. ^ Christensen, A., Jacobson, N.S. & Babcock, J.C. (1995). Integrative behavioral couples therapy. In N.S. Jacobson & A.S. Gurman (Eds.) Clinical Handbook for Couples Therapy (pp. 31-64). New York: Guildford.
  14. ^ Cordova, J., Cautilli,J.D., Simon, C. & Axelrod-Sabtig, R. (2006). Behavior Analysis of Forgiveness in Couples Therapy - IJBCT, 2.(2), 192-208
  15. ^ Ruben, D. H. (2001). Treating Adult Children of Alcoholics: A behavioral approach. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
  16. ^ Holmes, Dykstra Williamns, Diwan, & River, (2003) Functional Analytic Rehabilitation: A Contextual Behavioral Approach to Chronic Distress. The Behavior Analyst Today, 4 (1), 34-45 BAO
  17. ^ Smith, J.E., Milford, J.L and Meyers, R.J. (2004). CRA and CRAFT: Behavioral Approaches to Treating Substance-Abusing Individuals. The Behavior Analyst Today, 5.(4), 391-402 BAO
  18. ^ Kanter, J.W., Cautilli, J.D., Busch, A.M. & Baruch, D.E. (2005). Toward a Comprehensive Functional Analysis of Depressive Behavior: Five Environmental Factors and a Possible Sixth and Seventh. The Behavior Analyst Today, 6.(1), Page 65-78. BAO
  19. ^ Stuart, R.B.(1967). Behavioral Control of overeating. Behavior research and therapy, 5, 357-365[3]
  20. ^ Cautilli,J., Tillman, T.C., Axelrod, S., Dziewolska, H. & Hineline, P. (2006): Resistance Is Not Futile: An experimental analogue of the effects of consultee “resistance” on the consultant’s therapeutic behavior in the consultation process: A replication and extension. IJBCT, 2.(3), 362 -376. BAO
  21. ^ Cautilli,J.D. Riley-Tillman, T.C., Axelrod, S. & Hineline, P. (2005). Current Behavioral Models of Client and Consultee Resistance: A Critical Review. IJBCT, 1(2), 147-164 BAO
  22. ^ Kohlenberg, R., Boiling, M., Kanter, J. & Parker, C. (2002) Clinical Behavior Analysis: Where It Went Wrong, How It Was Made Good Again, and Why Its Future is So Bright.-The Behavior Analyst Today, 3 (3),
  23. ^ Blackledge, J.T. (2003). An Introduction to Relational Frame Theory: Basics and Applications. The Behavior Analyst Today, 3 (4), 421-442
  24. ^ Kohlenberg, R. J. & Tsai, M. (1991) Functional Analytic Psychotherapy. New York: Plenum
  25. ^ Wulfert (2002) Can Contextual Therapies Save Clinical Behavior Analysis? The Behavior Analyst Today, 3 (3), 254 [4]
  26. ^ Cautilli,J. T. Chris Riley-Tillman, Saul Axelrod and Hineline, P. (2005). The Role of Verbal Conditioning in Third Generation Behavior Therapy. The Behavior Analyst Today, 6.(2), 138- 157
  27. ^ Jacobson, N.S., Martell, C.R., & Dimidjian, S.(2001). Behavioral activation treatment for depression: Returning to contextual roots. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 8, 255-270.
  28. ^ Cullen, J.M. Spates, C.R, Pagoto, S. & Doran, N. (2006). Behavioral Activation Treatment for Major Depressive Disorder: A Pilot Investigation - The Behavior Analyst Today, 7.(1), 151-164.
  29. ^ Spates,C.R., Pagoto, S. and Kalata, A. (2006). A Qualitative And Quantitative Review of Behavioral Activation Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder. The Behavior Analyst Today, 7.(4), 508-512
  30. ^ Skinner, B.F. (1969). Contingencies of Reinforcement: A Theoretical Analysis. New York: Meredith Corporation.
  31. ^ Cordova,J., Cautilli, J.D., Simon, C. & Axelrod-Sabtig, R. (2006). Behavior Analysis of Forgiveness in Couples Therapy. IJBCT, 2.(2), 192-213 [5]

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Behaviour_therapy". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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