What Is Behavior Modification Therapy?

By Samantha Dewitt|Updated May 2, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Lauren Guilbeault, LMHC

There are several different types of therapy out there, and it can be difficult for some to understand all of them. With so many different options out there it might be hard for you to figure out what therapy might work best for you as well. That might be why you've stumbled across behavior modification therapy. You may be wondering what it is because you're curious, or you may be wondering if this is the type of therapy that's going to help you with whatever it is you're experiencing. Either way, we're going to dive right into it so you can get the help you need.

What Is Behavior Modification Therapy?

In some instances, therapy can be used to help an individual change a behavior that is in some way negative or undesirable. With this particular therapy, behaviors that the individual does not like about themselves can be worked on with a therapist or other mental health professional. It's important to note that this is intended only for specific types of disorders and not, as it was once used, for changing homosexual individuals who are not suffering from a mental illness.

What this type of modification can be used for are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, disruptive behavior, separation anxiety and some of the disruptive aspects of autism. In each of these situations and conditions, the individual can learn, through this type of therapy, to stop or to reduce the negative behaviors. This helps them to improve their quality of life and to work towards a less disruptive approach to the world around them and situations they find themselves in.

How It Works

So, just how does behavior modification therapy work? It's related to consequences, and it's very similar to what your parents likely used when you were young. Do you remember when you were a child and your parents would tell you no and punish you for bad behavior and then praise you and reward you for good behavior? That was a type of behavior modification therapy.

When you're rewarded for good behavior, it increases the likelihood that you will engage in that behavior again. When you're punished for bad behavior, it decreases the likelihood that you will engage in that behavior again. Your parents knew this when you were young, and it worked relatively well, right? You probably learned that doing the things your parents considered bad just wasn't worth it. But doing the things they considered good would get you rewarded in some way. When you engage in behavior modification therapy, you're going to be following along similar lines, though not exactly.

The idea is to recognize specific behaviors that can be observed and that are considered negative or positive. It then focuses on ways that the use of specific consequences can change those behaviors. Those consequences can help an individual learn how to react more appropriately in a given situation. This means that it can help to eliminate specific behaviors as well. It's all about the techniques that are used and what's being taught to the individual throughout therapy. Where your parents may have taught you to get home by curfew or not to talk back, your behavioral therapist can teach you to experience less fear in specific situations or to remain calm in tense environments.

Methods Of Behavior Modification

When it comes down to it, seven different methods are primarily used to help an individual change their behavior when it comes to specific situations. By working with you individually, a therapist will be able to figure out which of these different methods works best for your situation and you as a person. It may take a little trial and error to figure out the perfect method, or there may be a combination of different methods used. It's all going to be about working with your therapist to figure out what you need.

Modeling - With this method of modification you're going to learn how to do what someone else does. You'll have someone that you're able to watch perform a certain task or react in a specific way, and you'll be given the job of doing what they do. It will be up to you to learn how to model these types of behavior in different situations or when the situation arises again outside of your therapy.

Cuing - In this method you'll get some type of cue that's designed to help you remember what you should be doing in a specific type of situation. To begin with, your therapist will go through the process of teaching you a specific cue and the behavior that it's intended to prompt you to do. Later, as you're going through the rest of the things that you need in your life outside of therapy, you'll have to give yourself that cue or respond in some way to make sure you react the way you should for the situation.

Discrimination - You'll learn about specific situations and instances where you should behave a certain way and other ones where you should behave differently. You learn what the specific stimuli are and you receive a reward or some form of reinforcement when you respond appropriately to the stimuli. You want to make sure that you learn how to respond properly and that you consider the appropriate responses at every time.

Substitution - Here you learn how to substitute a new type of reinforcement if an old one stops working, for any reason. If you can quickly substitute something else in you'll be able to keep yourself moving forward and acting the way that you should in different situations. If you don't substitute something new, you could end up falling behind on your tasks.

Satiation - In this method, you're going to learn to self-soothe. That means you'll be allowed to tire yourself out with specific behavior. This is similar to allowing a baby to cry themselves to sleep to teach them how to fall asleep themselves. In this method, there is no truly changing the behavior or punishing it because it's all about letting the behavior wear itself out.

Avoidance - In this situation, you're going to learn to avoid specific situations that would trigger a specific reaction. Rather than learning how actually to cope with it or how to react differently, you just stop getting yourself into that situation or stop going around the people or the situations that would otherwise cause you to act inappropriately.

Positive Reinforcement - Positive reinforcement means that you're getting a type of reward or benefits in response to an action or reaction. The reward you get is meant to encourage you to do the same thing in the future when you find yourself in the same situation again.

Negative Reinforcement - This is actually where you receive some type of punishment as a response to a specific action. It's intended to keep you from reacting in the same way again if you find yourself in the same situation.

Fear Reduction - This method works to show you how to feel less afraid of different stimuli. You'll learn how to feel more comfortable in a specific situation that would otherwise cause you to feel upset. It also teaches more about relaxation. This way, you can continue with your life without being concerned about different stimuli.

Getting The Help You Need

When it comes time to get the professional help, you want to know that you're working with someone you can trust. You want to know that you have a professional who knows what they're doing and has the most knowledge about your specific situation. That means you need to find someone that you can feel comfortable with and someone that has gone through all of the training and certifications that you would expect from a high-quality therapy session.

When it comes to BetterHelp, you're going to have everything that you've expected and a whole lot more. You're going to have high-quality professionals that are more than prepared to work with you for whatever condition you may be facing. What's unique about this method of therapy is that you're going to be working entirely online. That means you don't need to worry about scheduling enough time to drive to the center. Instead, you can schedule to be there just when it's time to start your session.

BetterHelp provides you with some of the best therapists you're going to find anywhere. It also gives you the freedom to log on from anywhere that you happen to be. All you have to do is schedule it and then be somewhere that you can just sit down and sign in. Even better, you don't have to worry about finding someone physically close to you. Instead, you can talk with someone that's located far from you or even across the country, and still have the same therapy you want most.

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