What Is Behavioral Therapy And Can It Help Me?

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated March 8, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

When it comes to managing mental health disorders, there are several different ways in which a treatment plan can be carried out, including behavior modification therapy. Below you'll find a discussion on various types of behavior-focused approaches and how they work. You’ll also learn how certain therapeutic models can help individuals with everyday problems and experiences, even those without symptoms of a specific mental health condition. 

Behavioral Therapy Can Help You Manage Disruptive Behaviors

What Is Behavioral Therapy?

Behavioral therapy is a general term that's used to refer to therapies that work to reverse unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors. How does behavioral therapy work? Behavioral therapy helps to identify those behaviors and to support the individual through the process of changing them.

The idea behind it is that since behaviors are learned, they can also be changed or unlearned as well.

Unlike other forms of therapy that look at the past, this type of therapy focuses on the present. It examines current problems the individual is experiencing and seeks solutions for these issues.

Who Can Benefit From Behavioral Therapy?

Those who are experiencing various mental health disorders may benefit the most from behavioral therapy. If you're experiencing anxiety disorders, stress, depression, anger problems, emotional control, or substance use disorder, then you should know that behavioral therapy has been associated with positive results for each of these. Conditions like eating disorders, PTSD, ADHD, and phobias are also possible targets for treatment, among a range of other mental health disorders. Most types of behavioral and mental health disorders can be treated through some form of behavioral therapy, though the specifics may change from one type of condition to another as well as from one specific individual to another.

Children can also experience positive outcomes resulting from behavioral therapy, particularly play therapy. These therapeutic treatments allow them to express things that they may otherwise feel too uncomfortable, or unable, to express. This can help your child with understanding how to respond to different situations and may even assist with learning. It can also aid in developing an understanding of positive and negative behavior and how to interact with one’s peers. This can be especially helpful for children who have autism or ADHD. 

If you’re unsure whether behavioral therapy might be right for you, try speaking with a mental health professional. They can go over your history, take note of your symptoms, and then offer advice about what kinds of approaches they believe would be most effective for your needs. In general, though, if you’re experiencing problems controlling some aspect of your behavior, behavioral therapy might be a viable option to consider trying. 

Types Of Behavioral Therapy

There are several different kinds of behavioral therapy. Some are utilized for individuals of a certain age, or when someone has gone through a specific experience. A professional can help you decide which kind might work most effectively for you. Below, we’ll address some of the different styles of behavioral therapy in more detail. 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is one of the most common and popular types of therapy. Combining cognitive therapy and behavior therapy, CBT focuses on your thoughts and beliefs. In fact, it centers specifically on the way that these two things influence everything you do and feel. By looking at problematic thoughts and behaviors, CBT attempts to change the way that you think. The idea is that by changing unhealthy and unhelpful thought patterns, you can alter the way you interact with the world in a positive way.

  • CB Play Therapy: When it comes to children, play therapy is often effective in helping them cope with certain problems that they may be facing. The idea is that children play in unique ways that help give a therapist insight into what the child is experiencing. Children may be able to express more difficult emotions with the help of the toys that they play with and how they play with them. Some of these forms of play therapy are about free expression while others may be more guided. No matter what the precise method is, however, the child is encouraged to play and express themselves while the therapist observes.

  • Systematic Desensitization: One of the most popular therapeutic techniques utilized in behavior therapy is called systematic desensitization. Individuals with phobias will generally receive the most benefit from this approach. Through systematic desensitization, people with phobias learn how to remove the fear and anxiety from the situation or item about which they experience fear. It involves aspects of treatment like learning relaxation techniques and slowly implementing exposure therapy. With this approach, the individual can learn to eventually face their fears.

  • Aversion Therapy: For individuals experiencing addiction or other unwanted behaviors, aversion therapy is often recommended. This type of therapy instills an association between the negative action that they no longer want and some form of unpleasant stimuli. Uncomfortable memories can be one form of association designed to influence an individual to stop using drugs, for example. 

Advantages Of Seeking Mental Health Help

There are several different benefits associated with therapy. For many people, it can be an effective way to improve their overall well-being. Even if you don't believe you're experiencing a mental health disorder, you can still see benefits from behavioral therapy. The opportunity to talk with someone openly and honestly about anything you want can help you to feel more comfortable and confident in your daily life.

Behavioral Therapy Can Help You Manage Disruptive Behaviors

Online Therapy With BetterHelp

No one should have to face mental health challenges on their own. Whether you’ve been considering behavioral therapy for some time or want to get a feel for therapy, online counseling can be a productive starting point. You can connect with a therapist through BetterHelp, an online counseling platform. Here, you can speak with someone who is specialized in the area in which you’re seeking guidance. 

No matter where you live, you can still seek care according to your availability and in the way that you feel most comfortable. Whether you’d like to talk over the phone, through a video chat, or by using an in-app messaging feature, the choice is yours. Online therapy makes getting mental health care easier and more convenient.

The Efficacy Of Online Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is just one form of behavioral therapy you might participate in on your journey to healing. In a recent publication, researchers looked at several different studies to examine whether CBT was comparable when delivered online versus in person. The authors found that online CBT was just as effective as face-to-face CBT and that an online option is likely more appealing to people living in rural communities.

Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people facing a range of life’s challenges.

Counselor Reviews

“Sirena Blaesser is a genuinely kind and generous human being. To have her as my counselor has been wonderful so far. She listens carefully, helps you search in yourself with gentleness, encourage you to acknowledge yourself. The most important thing is that she sees you as a person integrally. She is very patien[t] and well prepared to lead you and motivate you. Her expertise and experience are remarkable. If you want a kind voice to help you overcome hardships, I will recommend Sirena.”


While behavioral therapy is often used to treat mental illness, one does not have to be diagnosed with a mental health condition in order to find it beneficial. Engaging in regular therapy sessions, regardless of the specific approach, can help an individual identify connections between their mental processes, feelings, and behaviors. From there, they can address problematic behaviors that they would like to change and develop healthy coping skills for managing difficult emotions. Online CBT may be helpful for those facing barriers to traditional, in-person mental health care.

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