Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Our Proven Methods
Psychotherapeutic treatment options provide significant results when it comes to mental health and substance abuse disorders. One of the more commonly used approaches is behavioral therapy and the various types of treatment that fall under this umbrella.
These forms of treatment include patients attending counseling sessions with psychologists and other therapists. Behavioral therapies use techniques derived from behaviorism and cognitive psychology.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health, which is why multiple forms of behavioral therapy are available, depending on the disorder. What is behavioral therapy at its most basic?
The following section will explain the characteristics that outline behavioral therapy, followed by more specific types of treatment that fall under this umbrella.
What Is Behavioral Therapy?
Behavioral therapy is a term that describes a wide variety of techniques used to transform maladaptive behaviors. The goal is to reinforce appealing behaviors and do away with unhealthy ones.
Behavioral therapy is seated in the concepts of behaviorism, a school of thought focused on the idea that we gain knowledge from our surroundings. This approach surfaced during the early part of the 20th century and became a prominent force in the mental health discipline for many years. Edward Thorndike was one of the first to refer to the idea of modifying behavior.
Distinct from the types of therapy focused on important information (such as psychoanalytic and humanistic therapies), behavioral therapy is action-based. Because of this, behavioral therapy is extremely targeted. The behavior itself is the challenge, and the objective is to educate patients regarding behaviors to limit or prevent these challenges.
Behavioral therapy suggests that since previous learning led to the emergence of an issue, then fresh development can mend it.
Several distinct types of behavioral therapy further divide the category. The following section provides examples of the most commonly used forms of behavioral therapy.
What Are the Types of Behavioral Therapy?
There is a range of different forms of behavioral therapy. The kind of therapy used can vary based on several factors, including the disorder being managed and the degree of the individual’s symptoms.
- Applied behavior analysis uses operant conditioning to form and change challenging behaviors.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) relies on behavioral techniques, but adds a cognitive element, focusing on the challenging feelings behind behaviors.
- Cognitive behavioral play therapy utilizes play to examine, restrict or address psychosocial challenges. The therapist may use play to help a child learn how to think and conduct themselves appropriately.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a form of CBT that uses both behavioral and cognitive methods to assist individuals to learn to regulate their emotions, handle stress, and improve social interactions.
- Exposure therapy utilizes behavioral techniques to help people conquer their phobias of situations or objects. This approach includes tactics that expose people to the origin of their anxieties while employing relaxation techniques. It is useful for treating specific phobias and other forms of anxiety.
- Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) focuses on identifying damaging or dangerous ideas and sentiments. Individuals then consistently dispute those ideas and replace them with more reasonable, practical ones.
Because of the large number of different forms of behavioral therapies, multiple disorders are treated or managed more efficiently. What are some of the common uses of behavioral therapies?
Common Uses for Behavioral Therapies
There are several uses for behavioral therapies and specific results that may be garnered. The following strategies are some of the more commonly employed uses and methods regarding behavioral therapy.
This approach includes pairing an unfavorable behavior with an aversive stimulus to anticipate that the unhealthy behavior will subsequently be diminished. For example, someone with an alcohol use disorder might take Antabuse (disulfiram), a medication that produces intense side effects (headaches, nausea, anxiety, and vomiting) when taken with alcohol.
This strategy entails subjecting patients to fear-invoking objects or scenarios aggressively and quickly. It is often used to treat phobias. During the process, the individual is restricted from leaving the situation.
In this strategy, individuals make a record of concerns and then practice relaxing while focusing on these concerns. Beginning with the least concerning the item and progressing toward the most concerning item, individuals methodically approach these concerns with the help of a therapist. Systematic desensitization is often used to treat phobias and other anxiety challenges.
These are just a few of the uses for behavioral therapy to treat the following disorders and challenges:
- Bipolar disorder
- Alcohol and substance use disorders
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Eating disorders
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Regarding substance abuse disorder, conditioning methods applied under behavioral therapy approaches effectively treat this abuse. Using cue exposure therapy, the sights, smells, locations, and people associated with substance abuse are used to reduce cravings and avoid relapse. Individuals are repeatedly exposed to these cues without engaging in drug-seeking or addictive behavior.
Several benefits exist when it comes to behavioral therapy approaches. The following sections highlight these advantages.
Benefits of Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral therapy is commonly used and has been shown to be successful in managing a variety of challenges. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, in particular, is regularly viewed as the “gold standard” in the treatment of many disorders. Specifically, cognitive-behavioral play therapy can be successful for children when alternative treatments are not.
CBT is usually more cost-effective than other forms of treatment, and results are achieved in five to 20 sessions. Research has shown that CBT is most effective for the treatment of:
- Anger issues
- Somatic symptom disorder
- Substance abuse and relapse prevention
Additionally, behavioral therapy has provided assistance with:
- Coping strategies
- Healthier thought patterns
The effectiveness of behavioral therapy depends on elements like the specific type of treatment used as well as the disorder that is being cared for.
Overall, studies suggest that about 67% of patients who try psychotherapy discover some type of positive advancement.
This isn’t saying that CBT and other specific methods are the only forms of treatment that are effective. It also doesn’t mean that behavior therapy is appropriate for every scenario.
However, these therapies can be significant recovery tools for self-destructive patterns.
Recovery Tools for Self-Destructive Patterns
Operant conditioning concentrates on how reinforcement and penalties can be employed to either accelerate or reduce the regularity of patterns. Behaviors and patterns followed by attractive outcomes are more likely to manifest again in the future, while those followed by adverse repercussions become significantly reduced.
These methods can be used as fantastic recovery tools to prevent destructive and damaging patterns.
This strategy uses a traditional penned contract between a client and a therapist (or parent or teacher) that details goals for pattern changes, reinforcements, rewards, and penalties. Contingency contracts can effectively promote behavior changes since the rules are clearly understood, preventing both parties from breaching the contract.
One more way to generate pattern breaking and conduct change is to stop reinforcing behavior in order to eradicate the response. Time-outs are a perfect example of the extinction process. During a time-out, individuals are extracted from a scenario that produces reinforcement. By eliminating what the patient found rewarding, undesirable actions can be prevented.
This strategy entails learning through observance and mimicking the behavior of others. Instead of focusing on reinforcement or penalty, modeling allows individuals to learn fresh techniques or attractive behaviors by monitoring someone else executing those techniques.
This method incorporates reinforcement to adjust behavior and eliminate destructive patterns. Parents and teachers often use token economies, allowing children to win tokens for exhibiting desirable behaviors and lose tokens for undesirable behaviors. These tokens can then be redeemed for various rewards.
There are a few more approaches that promote strong mental health. More specifically, what methods are administered to promote recovery from substance abuse and alcohol abuse disorders?
12-Step Programs and Supports
Many people hear the term “12-step program” and immediately think about alcohol treatment. However, these programs can be incredibly effective in treating alcohol, substance abuse, and negative behaviors regarding mental health in general.
These programs provide a significant amount of behavioral support and sources for improvement. These programs use the following steps and principles to promote these supports and changes:
- Honesty. After a long period of denial, healing begins with honesty. Being honest with yourself and family members regarding challenges you have with behavior or substance abuse is a great place to start.
- Faith. Before a higher power can operate, you must first have faith that this is possible.
- Surrender. You can break self-destructive patterns by surrendering to your higher power.
- Soul searching. Individuals in recovery must look back on their challenges and how they impacted their lives.
- Integrity. Admitting your wrongdoings toward loved ones in front of your higher power is a great way to promote new integrity.
- Acceptance. Accepting that you have challenges and defects as they exist and becoming willing to let them all go.
- Humility. This step involves asking a higher power to accomplish something that can’t be done by self-will or pure determination.
- Willingness. During this step, individuals make a list of people they harmed before entering recovery.
- Forgiveness. Making amends may seem difficult, but individuals serious about recovery will find this is a great way to begin healing compromised relationships and burnt bridges.
- Maintenance. Admitting that you were wrong is a necessary step to maintaining your spiritual progress during recovery.
- Making contact. Discover the plan the higher power has for your life. Where do you fall into the big picture?
- Service. Individuals in recovery must carry the message to others and use the principles of the program in every facet of life.
Clearly, 12-step-based recovery programs focus heavily on correcting destructive patterns and harmful behaviors. These programs are prime examples of behavior therapy because of these elements and the promotion of awareness and change.
When you think about it, the same model is used. Instead of being led by a counselor or therapist, you are being led by a sponsor. The sponsor promotes change, growth, and changes in a pattern by forcing you to engage in insight and analyze destructive behaviors. By actively engaging in a certain process or strategy, a clearly defined method is used to replace these negative behaviors with positive ones.
The only difference is that 12-step programs add another element by incorporating peer engagement in a group environment to promote recovery.
At Icarus Behavioral Health, we have a team of therapists and counselors that are well-informed, trained, and certified in implementing behavior therapies and methods to promote mental wellness. We can help clients achieve new levels of positive mental health, correct damaging patterns and behaviors, recover from drug and alcohol abuse disorder, and repair major elements in their personal life. Contact one of our admissions specialists to find out how to begin our intake process and get the ball rolling toward positive change.