Behavior Therapy

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Behavior Therapy

Behavior therapy is a short-term approach that has wide applicability. It emphasizes research into and assessment of the techniques used, thus providing accountability. Specific problems are identified and attacked, and clients are kept informed about the therapeutic process and about what gains are being made. The approach has demonstrated effectiveness in many areas of human functioning. The concepts and procedures are easily grasped. The therapist is an explicit reinforcer, consultant, model, teacher, and expert in behavioral change. The approach has undergone tremendous development and expansion over the past two decades, and the literature continues to expand at a phenomenal rate.. Historically, the behavioral trend developed in the 1950s and early 1960s as a radical departure from the psychoanalytic perspective. Four major phases in the development of behavior therapy are (1) the classical conditioning trend, (2) the operant conditioning model, (3) the social learning approach, and (4) cognitive behavior therapy.

Key Figures and Focus (1950s to early 1960s)
Ivan Pavlov is famous for "conditioned reflex" he developed jointly with his assistant Ivan Filippovitch Tolochinov in 1901. He had come to learn this concept of conditioned reflex when examining the rates of salivations among dogs. Pavlov had learned then when a bell was rung in subsequent time with food being presented to the dog in consecutive sequences, the dog will initially salivate when the food is presented. The dog will later come to associate the ringing of the bell with the presentation of the food and salivate upon the ringing of the bell.

BF Skinner was commonly known as B.F. Skinner. Skinner's views were slightly less extreme than those of Watson. Skinner believed that we do have such a thing as a mind, but that it is simply more productive to study observable behavior rather than internal mental events. Skinner believed that the best way to understand behavior is to look at the causes of an action and its consequences. He called this approach operant conditioning. Joseph Wolpe is best known for developing theories and experiments about what is now called systematic desensitization and assertiveness training. The first step is to teach the client relaxation responses that compete with and replace anxiety. Second, the events that make the client anxious are assessed and arranged by degrees of anxiety. The third step is to have the client imagine anxiety evoking situations while being relaxed.

In social learning theory Albert Bandura (1977) states behavior is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning. Children observe the people around them behaving in various ways. Individuals that are observed are called models. In society children are surrounded by many influential models, such as parents within the family, characters on children’s TV, friends within their peer group and teachers at school. Theses models provide examples of masculine and feminine behavior to observe and imitate. They pay attention to some of these people (models) and encode their behavior. At a later time they may imitate (copy) the behavior they have observed. They may do this regardless of whether the behavior is ‘gender appropriate’ or not but there are a number of processes that make it more likely that a child will reproduce the behavior that its society deems appropriate for its sex. First, the child is more likely to attend to and imitate those people it perceives as similar to itself. Consequently, it is more likely to imitate behavior modeled by people the same sex as it is. Second, the people around the child will respond to the behavior it imitates with either reinforcement or punishment. If a child imitates a model’s behavior and the consequences are rewarding, the child is likely to continue performing the behavior. If parent sees a little girl consoling her teddy bear and says “what a kind girl you are”,...
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