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The primary focus of behavioral therapy is to change ineffective, maladaptive behaviors and replace them with healthier behaviors. Most often a series of positive reinforcement follows wanted behaviors whereas negative reinforcement and/or punishment will follow the unwanted behaviors. A therapist may use this type of intervention to help parents develop a behavioral modification plan/chart to address unhealthy behaviors of their children.
Behavioral therapy is also used for anxiety disorders, most often for specific phobias. Behavioral interventions are used to help the person stop avoiding the feared situation or stimuli by gradually exposing the person to the feared situation or stimuli until the person becomes habituated and the anxious symptoms and extreme fear response dissipates. This type of gradual exposure intervention is also used for obsessive compulsive disorder. The most effective treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder is both a series of gradual exposure techniques and response prevention techniques. Response prevention refers to helping the person resist doing the compulsive behaviors that supports the obsessive thinking, for example resisting the urge to wash hands. The therapist works collaboratively with the person to help them develop a treatment plan using both exposure and response prevention interventions in a gradual, tolerable way until the obsessive compulsive patterns decrease and the person is in control, not the obsessions and compulsions. Behavioral therapy requires that the person be motivated to change their behaviors for the treatment to be effective.
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results." – Rita Mae Brown
Last updated: May 24, 2010
Types of Therapy
Site Last Updated: August 27, 2016
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