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What Is Behavioral Therapy?

This article will explain the process of behavioral therapy and how it can effectively treat a variety of conditions.

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What Is Behavioral Therapy?

Behavioral therapy is an action-based form of treatment that can be used to treat a variety of conditions. Behavioral therapy is a general term that refers to various behavior-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). The goal of behavior therapy is to reinforce and create more desirable behaviors and eliminate unwanted ones.

What Does a Behavioral Therapist Do?

Behavioral therapists are licensed clinical therapists trained to treat various mental health disorders. Behavioral counseling is similar to traditional talk therapy in many ways. For example, the therapist will ask questions to understand the causes of negative behaviors and help guide clients to create more positive behavioral and thought patterns.

What Kinds of Conditions do Behavioral Therapists Treat?

One in five adults in the U.S. experience a mental health condition each year, exemplifying the need for treatments that target various mental illnesses.1

Behavioral therapy interventions can help treat a variety of conditions, including: 

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism 
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Emotional distress
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Social phobias
  • Sub

What Are the Types of Behavioral Therapy?

Many types of behavioral therapy are utilized to help treat various mental health conditions and concerns. Depending on the condition someone is struggling with and their needs, different behavior therapy techniques may be more effective than others.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a form of behavior therapy often used to treat those struggling with autism. ABA treatment can help increase communication skills, improve attention and focus, and decrease problem behaviors by teaching clients how to apply skills learned during sessions to real-life situations. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely used and researched forms of treatment that can help improve symptoms of many disorders and conditions. CBT helps clients understand how their thoughts affect their behaviors, teaches how to manage thoughts and behaviors on their own, and creates more positive daily habits.

Compared to other therapy methods, a multitude of evidence and research has proven CBT to be an effective treatment, especially for anxiety, stress, anger control, somatoform disorders, and bulimia.2

Dialectical Behavior Therapy(DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a mindfulness-based form of behavioral psychotherapy. Principles used in DBT treatment can help treat stress and anxiety-related disorders and those who struggle with past trauma. 

One study found that DBT for people with suicidal thoughts and borderline personality disorder reduced suicide attempts by 50%, hospitalization for suicide ideation, and medical risk for suicide attempts and self-injurious acts.3

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) helps people recognize negative beliefs and thought patterns to overcome mental health concerns and emotional distress. REBT focuses on the ABC model, which stands for activating event, belief, and consequence. This model aims to identify situations that led to negative feelings and work to change that response to a more positive one.

Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory is a behavioral therapy model that focuses on social skills, relationships, and interactions with others. The social learning approach to behavioral counseling helps clients improve their relationships with others, which in turn helps treat mental and emotional distress. 

Techniques Used in Behavioral Therapy

Therapists can use many behavioral therapy techniques during treatment. These will be detailed below.

Activity Scheduling

Activity scheduling is commonly used with the behavioral treatment approach. The goal of behavior therapy is to create more positive behavioral patterns. Therefore, writing down and scheduling activities for the day will create more positive daily habits that lead to success.

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring is a behavioral counseling technique that involves the therapist asking about their client’s thought process during everyday situations. This allows the therapist to target negative views, beliefs, and behaviors and teach how to reframe them with a more positive outlook.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy involves exposing clients to situations that cause them distress. By being exposed to stressful situations during therapy, people can learn how to cope during those situations and manage their behavior.

Research has shown prolonged exposure therapy to be the most studied and supported treatment for PTSD, resulting in a significant reduction in symptoms and high retention rates.4


Behavioral therapy methods commonly utilize journaling or other thought tracking techniques to assess behavioral and thought patterns. Over time, journaling will help clients learn more about themselves and how to create more positive mental health behaviors to improve overall well-being. 

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and calming thought processes can help reduce stress and improve mental well-being.

Successive Approximation

Successive approximation is a behavioral treatment approach involving taking large tasks and breaking them into smaller and more manageable pieces. This can help create positive habits and behavior by making daily tasks more manageable and less overwhelming.

Behavioral Therapy

Benefits of Behavioral Therapy

There are many benefits of the behavioral approach to therapy. Common benefits of behavioral therapy are:

Manage Mental Illness Symptoms

The behavioral treatment approach can help manage mental illness symptoms. Behavior therapy aims to create more positive behavior patterns to manage mental distress. Over time, this will improve symptoms and develop more feelings of positive mental well-being. 

Alternative to Medications

Behavioral psychotherapy can be an alternative to medications in some instances. At times, all that is needed to treat mental distress is guidance and support from a therapist. For those with more severe conditions, behavior therapy can also help in addition to medications and will provide additional treatment benefits.

Learn Coping Techniques

Behavior therapy helps teach coping techniques that clients can use to manage and improve symptoms and deal with the daily stresses of life in a positive way. 

Overcome Emotional Trauma

Behavioral counseling can help to overcome emotional trauma. Skills taught using the behavioral approach to therapy can help clients learn about their thoughts related to traumatic incidents and how to manage emotions associated with them.

Improve Relationships

Behavioral therapy teaches interpersonal skills that will improve relationships. This can benefit those with family or relationship problems causing emotional distress. 

How to Get Started With Behavioral Therapy

The following includes a few tips on how to get started with behavioral therapy:

Find a Behavioral Therapist

Finding a behavioral therapist can be as easy as searching on the internet. Ensure to review potential therapists’ credentials and what they specialize in to get the best treatment that meets your needs. In addition, do not hesitate to ask therapists questions to learn more about them. 

Ask for Recommendations

Asking for recommendations can go a long way. Medical professionals and even friends and family may provide helpful advice regarding therapists, therapy types, and how to get the most out of your therapy sessions.

Contact Your Health Insurance

Your health insurance provider can offer a list of therapists and mental health offices that accept your insurance. In addition, you can contact your health insurance to learn more about what your plan covers.

Set Goals

Setting goals is an excellent way to lay out your plans, compartmentalize goals in different aspects of your life, and keep track of your accomplishments.

Be an Active Participant 

Being an active participant means listening to your therapist, participating during your sessions, and implementing what you learned in everyday life.

Get Behavioral Therapy at Great Oaks Recovery Center

If you are looking for behavioral therapy in the Houston, Texas area, Great Oaks Recovery Center can help. Great Oaks has licensed behavioral therapists trained to treat various conditions, including substance use disorder and mental health conditions. Contact us today for more information about our programs and how to get started.  



Questions About Treatment?

Our knowledgeable team is ready to discuss your situation and options. Your call is confidential with no obligation required.