Treatments & Therapies

Behavior therapy – treatment, effect and risks

Behavior therapy

In addition to psychoanalysis, behavioral therapy describes another large group of therapy options in the field of psychotherapy . It developed around the 1940s from concepts based on learning theory, but has no specific founder.

What is behavioral therapy?

Unlike other therapy models, the behavioral therapy concept is strongly based on research results from medical, psychological, biological and sociological fields. Research in the field of learning theory is important.

With three different approaches, behavioral therapy tries to change mental disorders and behavioral disorders through special techniques. It assumes that all behavior is learned and can therefore be unlearned or replaced by new behavior patterns.

Three model approaches are used:

Counterconditioning/confrontation, operant conditioning and the cognitive approach. Through a problem- and goal-oriented approach, behavioral therapy attempts to bring about a change in behavior that suits the personality and can thus last permanently. In this way, pathological and disturbed behavioral patterns are successfully healed.

Function, effect & goals

Since behavior therapy does not have a clearly defined procedure, it offers various models and techniques and is therefore suitable for a large number of behavioral and psychological disorders. However, it is of particular importance in the case of the following clinical pictures: anxiety and panic disorders , eating disorders , depression , addictive substance abuse and psychosomatic illnesses. All diseases are based on a disturbed behavior pattern.At the beginning of the therapy, a behavioral analysis takes place. As part of this analysis, the disruptions are determined and goals are set. The course of therapy usually takes place in phases and the patient must actively cooperate and thus assume personal responsibility.

The goal of therapy is either to stop or change an undesirable behavior, or to build up a desired behavior, such as self-confidence. Several goals can also be worked out in parallel.

These goals can be achieved through different approaches. The decisive factor here is the personality of the patient, because human behavior is understood as a system that functions and communicates on different levels: cognitive, physiological, emotional and behavior-oriented. There are constant interrelationships and effects, overlaps and tensions between these levels, which is why one level cannot be viewed in isolation.

A change in behavior always causes a reaction and change in the other levels. For this reason, patient self-control is an essential part of therapy. He learns to control himself and his behavior and to deepen it through constant training in such a way that it becomes an independent behavior and the old, unwanted behavior is superimposed or replaced.

This type of behavior modification can be done gradually over a period of time or through direct confrontation, a method often used in anxiety disorders .

Which procedure is chosen depends on the personality and the condition of the patient and is always worked out together with the patient. In this way, a possible overload can be avoided. In addition to conventional methods, behavior therapy also uses techniques from the areas of relaxation , hypnosis and role-playing games. The range of possibilities means that they can be used individually.

Over-the-counter medication for nervous disorders

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Risks & Dangers

Behavioral therapy is of course no guarantee of successful healing. Because it is a short-term therapeutic approach, it is not suitable for profound and severe mental disorders, such as those that often occur after long-lasting and severe trauma .It also presupposes a certain mental stability and requires active cooperation on the part of the patient, which in the case of severely schizoid patients is only possible with medication.

Behavioral therapy is unsuitable for disorders that require extensive and intensive processing of past events. It can become important at a later point in time, but is not used for processing. If behavioral therapy starts too early and traumas are not processed sufficiently, serious setbacks can occur later.

In these cases, the success of learning through behavioral therapy is usually lost. In some groups of patients, therapy is only possible with medication, such as in the case of severe depression. It is important that the behavioral changes can persist even after the medication is discontinued. It is important to weigh up carefully whether behavioral therapy can contribute to the healing success or whether another form is better suited to the personality and the disorder.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.