Behavioral therapy from our Columbia therapists is typically short term, lasting for 5-20 sessions. That said, every individual is different. You and your therapist can decide on the right amount of sessions for you.
Behavioral Modification and utilizing Behavioral therapy and related interventions vary from one clinician and with the disorder; however, they focus mostly on how some thoughts or behaviors may accidentally get “rewarded” within one’s environment, contributing to an increase in the frequency of these thoughts and behaviors. Behavior therapies can be applied to a wide range of psychological symptoms to adults, adolescents, and children. A couple of examples are below.
Scenario 1: Imagine an adolescent that persistently requests to use the their cell phone to communicate with friends. After repeated requests to parents, and repeated denials for permission, the teenager becomes angry, irritable, and disobedient towards his/her parents. Following a tantrum, the parents decide they cannot take the hassle anymore and allow their child to borrow the phone. By granting permission, the child actually has received a “reward” for throwing a tantrum. Behavior therapists say that by granting permission after to a tantrum, the child has “learned” that disobedient behavior is an effective strategy for getting permission. Behavior therapy seeks to understand such links between behaviors, rewards, and learning, and change negative patterns. In other words, in behavior therapy, parents and children can “un-learn” unhealthy behaviors, and instead reinforce positive behaviors.
Scenario 2: Imagine being afraid to swim. To avoid the fear and anxiety, you might eventually choose to avoid all water related recreations, and refuses to go on family vacations to the beach or pool. The extra time and energy that is needed to walk or step into the water could cause you to be constantly angry, hyper reactive, and irrational. However, despite these consequences, the fear that comes with water and swimming is too great to bear. Behavior therapists suggest that avoiding the water has been rewarded with the absence of anxiety and fear. Behavioral treatments would involve supervised and guided experience with water related activities until the “rewards” associated with avoidance have been “un-learned,” and the negative associations you have with pools and swimming has been “un-learned.”
Although behavioral therapies are different from disorder to disorder, a common thread is that behavioral therapists encourage clients to try new behaviors and not to allow negative “rewards” to dictate the ways in which they act.