What is behavioral therapy?

Behavioral therapy is a common umbrella practice in the field of psychology. However, what does it exactly include and how do mental health professionals use it with technology? We’ll explain this and more in today’s post!

So, what is behavioral therapy?

An umbrella term, behavioral therapy welcomes a vast range of techniques and psychological approaches to shift maladaptive behaviors. This line of treatment aims to develop and support desirable behaviors while eliminating unwanted behavioral actions.

Behavioral therapy stems from ideas upheld by behaviorism, which believes learning occurs through our environments. While it first came about in the early 1900s, this way of thinking took hold in psychology and has borne witness to varying therapeutic approaches.

A unique aspect of behavioral therapy is its focus on actions. This contrasts with other types of therapy, such as psychoanalytic therapy, which centers on insight instead. For this reason, behavioral therapy will often be highly purposeful.

The behavior itself represents the problem; guided changes in actions or the adoption of new behaviors invite remedial possibilities.

Who is behavioral therapy for?

Mental health professionals may employ behavioral therapy for a vast array of psychological conditions and disorders, such as:

  • Alcohol and substance use disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Behavioral therapy is a popular approach among mental health professionals because it focuses on the problem and underpins the relevance of actions. In cases of anger management and stress management, behavioral therapy may also be a suitable option.


What are the different types of behavioral therapy?

Mental health professionals will determine which line of behavioral therapy to use depending on different factors, such as the mental condition in question or the severity of the symptoms.

Regardless, here is a detailed overview of some types of behavioral therapy:

  • Behavior modification therapy — This approach employs operant conditioning to give form to and adjust problematic actions.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) — While this approach engages in behavioral techniques, it also includes a cognitive element. In other words, it will consider the maladaptive beliefs or problematic thoughts that influence behavior.
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy — This form of CBT was initially aimed at patients living with borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, its use has expanded to include individuals who would like to learn how to regulate their emotions, cope with distress or strengthen interpersonal relationships. It may consist of group therapy or individual therapy, as well as phone coaching.
  • Exposure therapy or System desensitization — Mental health professionals use exposure therapy to help individuals manage fears or phobias of scenarios or objects. It will include gradual exposure, as well as relaxation and breathing techniques.
  • Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) — Negative or destructive beliefs or sensations can influence actions. In this approach, individuals learn how to challenge these ways of thinking to substitute the beliefs with more logical and balanced ones.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy has become a gold-standard psychological treatment. It is the most investigated form of psychotherapy and has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress and treat other mental conditions.

What is the role of a behavioral therapist?

While behavioral therapists may apply different therapeutic approaches for patients, some responsibilities and aspects define mental health professionals of this kind, including:

  • Helping individuals to foster healthier thought patterns and behaviors
  • Conceiving adequate treatment programs per diagnoses
  • Adjusting such programs per changes or breakthroughs in treatment
  • Suggesting activities or exercises that allow individuals to practice and integrate learned techniques in daily life routines


What is an example of behavioral therapy?

Behavioral therapy may come in various forms. However, the latest and most promising to discover is that which incorporates virtual reality (VR) and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

At Psious, our VR technology has integrated CBT techniques to place patients first while facilitating sessions for mental health professionals. For instance, Amelia Virtual Care VR-CBT offers virtual environments wherein patients with anxiety or stress can practice mindfulness and breathing exercises. Some of these mindfulness sessions can include exercises on attentional focus, body scanning or emotional regulation. As some patients may advance faster than others, mental health professionals can adjust settings in such a way that the session runs in a more controlled yet personalized manner always.

This example is just one of many virtual settings offered by Amelia Virtual Care. If you’re interested in learning more about the other environments and how mental professionals use our VR technology to improve their sessions, contact us now! We’ll be glad to set up a demo session with you.

Other articles that might interest you:

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