An Overview of Behavioral Therapies

An Overview of Behavioral Therapies

There are many types of therapeutic interventions available to help treat mental health and substance use disorders (SUDs). Most treatment centers offer a range of psychotherapies that work to positively change one’s thoughts, emotions, and associated behaviors. 

One category of therapy is referred to as behavioral therapy. Behavioral treatments and therapies are designed to help change problematic and unhealthy behavior patterns. These treatments are based on the idea that all behaviors are learned and, therefore, can be changed. Often, behavioral health approaches utilize medication to help complement the effectiveness of therapy. 

As there is a surplus of different behavioral therapies available, it may be helpful to break down these therapies to better understand what to expect from them and what each of them treats. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common forms of treatment for mental health and SUDs. It combines cognitive and behavioral therapy to help clients identify problematic patterns of thought, beliefs, attitudes, and values that relate to one’s thinking and behavior processes. 

Rather than letting the therapist guide discussion in sessions, CBT treatment gives responsibility to the client while the therapist supplies them with skills and tools to help them work through difficult emotions. Therapists encourage clients to work through challenges they are experiencing in the present moment rather than focusing on solving problems from the past. The long-term goal of this treatment is to build healthier patterns of thought and behavior to help clients successfully achieve a better quality of life.

CBT is known to treat depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and substance use disorders, among many other conditions. It can also be used to relieve symptoms of specific conditions and other treatment modalities to make one’s recovery process more effective. 

Dialectal Behavior Therapy

Dialectal behavior therapy (DBT) is a form of CBT that emphasizes the use of mindfulness techniques, such as acceptance and emotional regulation. It can be effective in treating individuals struggling with managing emotional distress or experiencing persistent issues in their interpersonal relationships. 

DBT works to prioritize client safety from self-harming and self-destructive behaviors during individual treatment sessions. Therapists help clients address obstacles that hinder their healing process and replace unhealthy behaviors with healthy alternatives. Unlike CBT, DBT encourages acceptance of emotions that come up during sessions rather than working to change them. 

DBT is known to treat a range of different conditions; however, the treatment was originally designed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD). It has since been adapted to treat individuals that struggle with suicidal ideation and other mental health issues that threaten an individual’s sense of safety and emotional well-being. 

Behavior Modification

Behavior modification is a therapeutic intervention that is also used to eliminate or change unhealthy, maladaptive behavior patterns. This treatment is unique from CBT and DBT because it does not directly work to change thought processes that affect behavior. Instead, it focuses on changing specific behaviors without necessarily evaluating a client’s thoughts or feelings. It emphasizes altering behavior rather than uncovering the underlying causes of behavior problems. 

In sessions, a client will work with a therapist to identify the reasons for needing behavioral modification. It will utilize reinforcers, or rewards, during sessions. Positive reinforcers may include the delivery of:

  • Praises
  • Affirmation
  • Encouragement

Negative reinforcers, on the other hand, are things that are removed to strengthen a specific attitude or behavior. Typically, clinicians use negative reinforcement to increase the effectiveness of treatment. 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a treatment that combines the mindfulness and acceptance aspects of DBT and behavior modification. ACT is designed to enhance the psychological flexibility of clients, which means engaging with the present moment as consciously as possible and altering behavior to fit current circumstances. 

During ACT sessions, clients work with therapists to understand their personal obstacles that keep them from successfully regulating their own emotions. Clients also discover that, while psychological suffering is natural, there are ways to combat emotional suffering by altering the way that we think of and respond to distress. It also validates the belief that avoidance of distress, trauma and other unresolved emotional difficulties can contribute to greater dysfunction and increased distress in the long run. 

ACT utilizes several coping mechanisms, including:

  • Acceptance
  • Mindfulness
  • Values
  • Committed action
  • Cognitive defusion

ACT can be used to treat various mental and physical health conditions. Rather than working to address a specific symptom or treat one disorder, ACT was designed in such a way that it is flexible. The skills and lessons learned from ACT are ones that anyone can apply to their life to experience greater peace and clarity. 

Behavioral therapies are treatments that help clients address and overcome unhealthy behavior patterns. These therapies can address self-destructive behaviors, such as substance use issues, unmanaged anger, aggression, and other emotional challenges that may be the result of mental health conditions. There are several different types of behavioral therapies, and each one is unique in its own way. In understanding the types of therapies that are offered, you may be more familiar with what therapy will work best for you or your loved one. SoCal Mental Health is a treatment facility that offers a variety of behavioral treatment options for clients. We understand that effective treatment is individualized, which is why we create individualized treatment plans for all of our clients. We can help match you with a therapy method that will work for your unique needs. For more information, call us today at (714) 328-4760.