7 Techniques of Behavioral Therapy

In this article, we will discuss the seven techniques of behavioral therapy. Let’s look at the seven techniques of behavioral therapy.

The first technique is known as Negative Reinforcement.

Negative reinforcement is following an undesirable response with a painful outcome, an outcome which is not liked.

For instance, a child is reprimanded by the teacher and the child is sent out of the class. Standing outside the class, the child is missing the lecture and enjoying outside. This is negative reinforcement where the child can escape and avoid a lecture and enjoy outside.

The whole concept of reinforcement the behavior increases in future; the likelihood of that behavior increases in the future, but because it’s avoiding escape that is why we call it negative reinforcement.

The second is Aversive Conditioning.

A repeated association of undesired response with an aversive consequence which results in the person giving up faulty behavior.

For instance, an alcoholic person who is given medicines which cause nausea or discomfort is more likely to leave alcohol because of the aversive consequence.

The third technique is known as Positive Reinforcement.

In this technique, we link up the behavior with a positive outcome. The response is linked up with a positive outcome and the likelihood of that behavior increases in the future.

For instance, associating a favorite dish with the study of homework or television so the child is more likely to do the homework or studies if it is associated with a positive outcome. That is positive reinforcement.

The fourth technique is the Token Economy.

Tokens are given for change of behavior. In the case of a child who has to be taught some good mannerisms, the child is given a certain number of tokens. After collection of those tokens, they can be exchanged, for instance, with an outing.

The fifth technique is Modeling.

We also call it “curious learning”, where a role model demonstrates a behavior and that behavior is copied because the consequences of that behavior are positive. Based on the observation and behavior of a role model, the changes start occurring.

For instance, a child learns to lie because the parents were lying or the child learns to respect the elders because the parents were doing it. The parents are the role model for children. We call this “vicarious learning” – learning by observation.

The sixth technique is Differential Reinforcement.

Differential reinforcement is the use of both positive and negative reinforcements which we have mentioned earlier – positively reinforcing of behavior and negatively reinforcing of behavior.

Desirable behavior is positively reinforced and negative behavior is negatively reinforced. Similarly, we can also use ignorance for the unwanted behavior – the behavior we do not want the child to follow we can teach it by ignoring that behavior.

For instance, parents are taught to ignore when the child is sulking or crying or throwing temper tantrums – the basic behavior of the child does not adhere to the demand if not fulfilled. If the child asks politely for going for an outing, the parents listen to the child and take the child for an outing – so positive behavior which is desirable is reinforced through positive reinforcement and negative behavior either through ignorance or through negative reinforcement.

The last technique is known as Systematic Desensitization.

This technique was given by Wolpe. Wolpe talked about the construction of a hierarchy from the lowest fear to the highest fear.

For instance, somebody is very scared of cockroaches. The lowest fear would be cockroach at a distance of one kilometer or at a long distance whereas the highest fear or the fear which makes the person panic will be a cockroach in a coffee mug. This hierarchy, the series of behaviors are constructed from the lowest fear-provoking event to the highest fear-provoking event. After these behaviors are identified and the hierarchy is constructed, the person is taught relaxation.

Every event or every situation in the hierarchy is taken up, the person is made to relax, and the visualization is done by the therapist. The therapist gives the instructions where the client can imagine the situation as if the client is in the situation. With that imagination and with relaxation, the person goes up in the hierarchy and the fear dissolves.

This follows the principle of reciprocal inhibition. In this, we understand the logic that anxiety and relaxation cannot occur at the same time. Fear and relaxation cannot occur at the same time, so it is reciprocal inhibition where either of them will be reinforced and the other will be inhibited.

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