Behavior Therapy

This is the one kind of psychotherapy that does not foster awareness. Behavioral treatments came out of laboratory work with animals and involve the principals of learning -- positive and negative reinforcement, conditioned reflexes, and many others. Behaviorists have had success with certain kinds of patients and most therapists incorporate behavioral techniques in their work.

In a therapy that is more purely "behavioral", a variety of exercises may be prescribed for the office and for the patient’s life between sessions. These exercises will hopefully eliminate symptoms in something under 20 sessions or so. They might involve gradual exposure to the thing you are afraid of, relaxation exercises to accompany this work (breathing, contracting and relaxing muscles, visualization, etc.), and various kinds of practice for the real life situation.

Behavioral treatment seems to work best on specific and circumscribed symptoms. By that I mean it can be useful if you really have no symptom other than your elevator phobia. Usually, however, as I have hopefully made clear in other sections of this website , there are many other symptoms, and even the phobia you think you have turns out not to fit the definition. [Ed] So instead of going straight to a "behavior therapist", talk to the best therapist you can find -- behavioral or otherwise -- before you decide what kind of treatment you need.

One problem with behavioral techniques is that they are inconsistently applied in real life, outside the session. This is especially the case when working with children and their families. It can be difficult for parents and schools, with their own styles and busy schedules, to really stick to the reinforcement schedules, limits, and consequences that we specify in session. Still, behavioral techniques, properly applied, can be very useful with some of children’s specific problems such as tantrums, bed wetting, toilet training, and phobias.

Children and Adolescents

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