Nowadays, behaviour therapy is so important in our life and most of us need to know simple useful information about it to manage the life well.
Contemporary Behaviour Therapy focuses on actions to help people change what they are thinking and doing. In recent years there has also been an increase in the use of cognitive techniques making this area of therapy difficult to define. Behaviour therapy has been continuously evolving since the 1950’s and now has a focus on treatment of problems and the role of behaviour, as well as emphasizing learning and a constant evaluation and assessment.
Contemporary behaviour therapy is best understood in terms of classical conditioning (Lazarus, Eysenck, Wolpe; incorporating treatment of phobias and systematic desensitization), operant conditioning (Skinner; incorporating positive and negative reinforcement as ways of learning), social learning theory (Bandura 1977; incorporating interactions between the individual and the environment, and self-efficacy) and CBT (Beck; incorporating the effects of cognitive processes and internal events on behaviour).
Contemporary behaviour therapy is structured in its approach to counselling. It is not deterministic but holds that the individual is the producer and the product of their environment. This is something of a departure from Skinnerian behaviourism which held that the individual could have self-determination. Nowadays behaviourist approaches increase rather than stifle individual freedom.
There has also been a growing integration between behavioural and humanistic approaches. This is reflected in a number of ways:
- Therapy is action-orientated, i.e. clients are encouraged to act in order to change problems rather than introspect
- There has been greater interest in how events are influenced by thoughts and internal meanings
- There is greater consideration as to how people are responsible for their own behaviour.
Characteristics of behaviour therapy
- It is based on scientific methodology. At the outset of counselling, goals, concepts and procedures are stated explicitly, then tested and revised continually. Conclusions are based on what is observed rather than on personal beliefs.
- The focus is on the client’s current problems and the factors that influence them.
- Clients take an active role to bring about change. They learn to monitor their behaviour and practice new coping skills.
- Education is a core element, with an emphasis on the client learning self-management skills.
- Self-control is emphasised so that clients can initiate, conduct and evaluate their own therapy.
- Techniques are tailored to suit the individual client’s needs.
- The counsellor and client have a collaborative partnership.