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What is Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavior Therapy | Just Believe Recovery
In This Article

Behavioral therapy is a term that applies to multiple types of therapies used to treat mental health disorders. The goal of behavioral therapy is to break self-destructive or unhealthy habits. This type of therapy is based on the belief that all behaviors are learned and, therefore, can be changed.

Disorders Treated By Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy can be used to successfully treat several mental health disorders including anger issues, anxiety, and depression. It also can be used to treat other common mental health conditions.

Patients suffering from eating disorders, PTSD, bipolar disorder, ADHD, substance abuse, self-harm, OCD, and social phobias could all positively benefit from behavioral therapy. It can even show positive results in patients of all age ranges.

Behavioral Therapy Types

Different types of behavioral therapy can be used depending upon the situation and patient. Here is a list of the varying types:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This particular type combines behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy (as the name would suggest). The focus of this therapy is how someone’s thoughts and beliefs influence their emotional state, as well as their actions. The idea is to focus on the person’s thoughts. If their thoughts can be changed deeply enough, then it will affect their actions in a positive way. Self-destructive habits can be broken, and they will be on the road to recovery.

Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy

This method of therapy is most often used with children. In this form of therapy children are observed as they play. The belief is that, when playing, children are more care-free and will show more of their natural emotions. While watching the children express themselves freely as they play, therapists can more easily see what makes a particular child uncomfortable, or what that child has trouble expressing.

Children may be asked to do such tasks as: drawing a picture, playing in the sandbox, or play with simple toys. In addition to observing the emotional response of the children during play time, therapists can also teach parents how to use play to improve the relationship and communication with their children.

System Desensitization 

This particular type of behavioral therapy is most often used to treat phobias. The idea here is for the individual to replace their fear responses, associated with certain phobias, with relaxation responses. A therapist will teach the patient relaxation, breathing, or meditation techniques. Once these techniques are learned, the therapist will then expose the patient to their fear in increasingly severe doses.

Aversion Therapy

Typically used to combat substance abuse or alcoholism, this type of therapy takes an originally pleasurable stimulus that is unhealthy, and then a therapist will work with a patient to associate that stimulus with something extremely unpleasant. In some instances of aversion therapy, a therapist may associate using drugs or alcohol with a very unpleasant childhood memory. Over time, this can condition the patient out of substance abuse and into recovery.

Can Behavioral Therapy Be Effective

Since behavioral therapy is considered one of the best options to combat a large number of mental health issues, the overwhelming opinion is that it can be effective. In fact, approximately 75% of people who undergo cognitive behavioral therapy experience some benefit.

The results of play therapy show that it has been equally effective in children age 3-12. However, in recent years play therapy has also been a viable form of behavioral therapy for adults.

How Does It Affect Children

Play therapy and applied therapy are the most common methods used with children. The goal of behavioral therapy with children is to try to get the child to respond more positively to different situations. This is done by positively reinforcing good behavioral responses and negatively reinforcing bad behavioral responses.

If you feel like you want to put your child through behavioral therapy, don’t be worried if it takes your child time to warm up to their therapist. This is completely normal and nothing to be worried about.

Once they feel comfortable, and know they can express themselves without consequences, they will start to warm up to them.

This type of therapy has been seen to work best in children with ADHD or autism.

Are There Risks of Behavioral Therapy

There is really no danger, or harm, in undergoing behavioral therapy. The only risk behavioral therapy presents is the risk of emotional discomfort, as a patient may be asked to talk about some uncomfortable thoughts or experiences.

This is especially true in methods of behavioral therapy like system desensitization or aversion therapy. The patient may be asked to confront a very uncomfortable fear, or focus on a particularly painful part of their past.

What Happens At Your First Session

At your first session of therapy the therapist will typically spend time gathering information about you, and getting to know you. Their goal is to gain a deeper understanding of who you are and how you operate.

Your therapist may ask you about your past physical and emotional health, or if you’ve gone to therapy before. They will also ask about what concerns you’d like to work on. Depending on what concerns you would like to work on, the therapist may also suggest other forms of treatment like medication or other therapies.

However, the first visit is about more than just your therapist getting to know you. It’s also about you getting to know your therapist. The first visit is a good opportunity for you to see your therapist’s approach, decide along with them what type of therapy would be best for you, set the goals of your treatment, set the length of your sessions, and decide on how many sessions you both think you may need.

It’s important to note that things may not feel perfect right off the bat. That’s normal. It may take you and your therapist a few sessions to get comfortable with each other. If a few sessions have gone by, and there is still a lack of connection with your therapist, see another one. There is no law saying you have to choose the first therapist you see. The more important thing is continuing to see one that you are comfortable working with.

All Sorted Out

Our hope, here at Just Believe Recovery, is that after reading this you will be equipped with all the knowledge necessary to use behavioral therapy to live your best life. It can be a powerful tool to help you move past some of the “junk” in your past and move on to grow into a happier, healthier person.

As always, if you need any resources or information on where to start finding a counselor, you can always contact us by phone or on our website.

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