Benefits Of Behavioral Therapy

By Nadia Khan

Updated December 10, 2018

Behavior therapy, or behavioral therapy, is a broad term used to describe different types of therapeutic treatment designed to treat and combat different mental disorders. Behavior therapy can benefit adults as well as children, and the wide array of types of treatment available enable behavior therapy to be effective for a large number of people. Many different behavior therapists and behavioral therapists specialize in treatments catered to specific mental disorders.

The most comment mental illnesses that adults and children suffer from that behavioral therapy techniques can alleviate are:

  • Anger management issues
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Panic disorders

In addition, behavioral therapy can also help alleviate symptoms for:

  • ADHD
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Self-mutilation
  • Phobias
  • PTSD
  • Eating disorders
  • Addiction


Types of Behavioral Therapy

Different types of behavioral therapy techniques exist that behavior therapists utilize to treat mental disorders in both adults and children. Combinations of different treatments are also beneficial, however, any behavioral treatment should be supervised and administered by a behavior therapist or a behavioral therapist.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is "a time-sensitive, structured, present-oriented psychotherapy directed toward solving current problems and teaching patients skills to modify dysfunctional behavior."

CBT is a behavior therapy that is based on the cognitive model, which is the way that people perceive a certain event or situation is more closely connected to their own reaction than to the situation that is occurring. CBT stresses on the fact that is patients can change the way they think, and they can gain control of their mood. When behavior therapists use CBT for patients over time improvements, and alleviation of symptoms from mental disorders becomes near constant.

CBT is a very popular behavior therapy technique and is a proven, reliable treatment for mental disorders. CBT is popular because it combines behavioral therapy with cognitive therapy. The main teaching of CBT is how important it is to realize the effect your thoughts and feelings have on your interpretation of certain situations. These factors can also control your mood, which makes CBT an effective choice with people suffering from mental disorders that greatly affect mood.

Behavioral therapists typically have a patient focus on addressing present problems they are going through at the time of therapy. By focusing on how to solve them people develop different reactionary skills when processing similar situations in the future. Developing healthier reactions is key to overcoming symptoms of mental disorders.

Behavioral Activation Therapy

Behavioral activation therapy is essentially a behavior treatment for depression that aims to target reactions or behaviors that might maintain or worsen the depression. Behavioral activation therapy model proposes that life events (including loss of life or significant trauma, genetic predispositions to mental disorders like depression or anxiety, and even the hassles in life) lead to people experiencing low amounts of positive reinforcement from their environment. Through a process of negative reinforcement detrimental behaviors used to cope with short-term issues, but in turn are negative in the long-term, increase.


The main issue with the negative reactions to situations is that they tend to increase the symptoms of mental disorders. For example, shutting oneself out and away from everyone and anything might seem like a great idea in the moment when feelings of depression take hold, but in the long run that behavior can only make depression symptoms more severe.

BA proposes an "outside-in" approach utilizing the scheduling of behavior therapy activities aimed to allow patients to begin to increase their chance of having a better opportunity to receive positive reinforcement.

Behavioral analytic theory "recognizes that the outcome or function of a behavior is more important than the form of the behavior". Further, BA targets "avoidance" reactions and behaviors. Avoiding behaviors have to be addressed with proper BA behavioral therapy techniques aimed to alleviate systems of mental disorders in patients.

Aversion Therapy

Other mental issues that proper behavior therapy can address are those that suffer from drug or substance abuse and alcoholism. Aversion therapy can be administered by a behavior therapist, and it aims to teach patients to associate a stimulus that is desirable, yet destructive with another stimulus that is extremely unpleasant.

The goal of aversion therapy is to teach a patient to associate the problem addiction with something that causes them discomfort or extreme uneasiness. For example, a behavior therapist can teach a patient to associate alcohol with a personal, unpleasant memory.

Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy

This form of behavior therapy is most commonly and effectively used with children suffering from behavior disorders. When a behavior therapist watches or observes a child play, the behavior therapist is given key insight into how that child reacts to specific situations. For example, behavior therapists can learn what a child is uncomfortable expressing or even unable to express.

Allowing children to play also enables them to feel safe and comfortable. They're free to choose their own toys and play at will, allowing behavior therapists the opportunity to glimpse into how that child behaves and reacts. Behavior therapists can also play with a child, so they can gain knowledge and pass it on to parents, enabling parents to implement tactics to have better communication with their children.

System Desensitization

System desensitization is another form of behavior therapy that is based on the principle of classical conditioning. This type of behavior therapy aims to remove the fear response in reaction a patient has to a phobia. In substitution of the fear, a calm or relaxed response to the conditional stimulus begins to gradual develop through counter conditioning.

There are three phases to system desensitization treatment:

  1. Physical Treatment: Deep muscle relaxation techniques and breathing exercises are taught. This is an extremely important step because of reciprocal inhibition.
  2. Fear Hierarchy: Creating a chart or diagram of what a patient fears least all the way to the most fear-provoking phobia provides a structure for behavior therapy
  3. Working the Way Up: Patients working upwards through their fear hierarchy beginning with the fear they are least affected by working their up to the stimulus that provokes the most fear. By moving from stage to stage, the fear patients feel lessens thus making them less prone to being upset or disturbed by it


By the patient constantly confronting these fears the situations begin to evoke no anxiety. The symptoms or fear that patients feel in reaction to phobias can be successfully treated with system desensitization behavior therapy administered by a professional behavior therapist.

How Effective is Behavioral Therapy?

Different types of behavior therapy have been extremely successful in combating different types, and even severities of mental disorders. Not only are different types of behavior therapy effective, they also address a wide range of different mental disorders that a large amount of the population suffer from.

At least 75 percent of patients who go through some form of cognitive behavior therapy benefit positively from treatment to some degree. Although, behavior therapy isn't just dependent on the behavior therapist, but the effort the patient puts in as well.

Studies find that behavior therapy techniques are most effective in:

  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Alcoholism
  • Paranoia
  • Extreme phobias
  • Anger issues
  • Bulimia and anorexia
  • Stress
  • Somatoform disorders

Seeking treatment from a behavior therapist can greatly reduce symptoms, if not alleviate them altogether if the proper behavior therapy techniques are used during treatment and supervised by a behavior therapist.

Finding the Right Behavior Therapist

Committing to thoroughly researching a behavior therapist that specializes in the mental disorder you suffer from is hugely important when seeking treatment. If you want to commit to working to rid yourself of your depression or anxiety symptoms, making sure you go online to resources like and vetting all options should be your first step when trying to find a behavior therapist.

A behavior therapist's treatment will involve asking you personal and revealing questions, so not only should you know what practice they are committed to but you should also be sure you are comfortable with them. Comfortability will help you relax and open yourself to treatment, making your recovery easier and the behavior therapist's treatment more effective.

After Behavioral Therapy: What's Next?


Behavior therapy tends to be short-term, usually lasting between 10 to 20 sessions. Although these sessions with a behavior therapist seem short-lived, their effects are lasting. Committing to behavior therapy can enable you to achieve a level of peace you once thought was impossible.

Treatment can lead to normal reactions, alleviation from depression, elimination of destructive addictions and a permanent curb to fear and anxiety. Certain tasks can now be accomplished without issue.

Finding the right behavior therapist and the right behavior therapy techniques can lead to recovery and the elimination of debilitating symptoms that inhibit you from living your life normally. With commitment, comes recovery.


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