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Behavioural Treatment

Behaviour therapy is based upon the principles of classical conditioning developed by Ivan Pavlov and operant conditioning developed by B.F. Skinner. There has been a good deal of confusion on how these two conditionings differ and whether the various techniques of behaviour therapy have any common scientific base.

Contingency management programs are a direct product of research from operant conditioning. These programs have been highly successful with those suffering from panic disorders, anxiety disorders, and phobias.

Systematic desensitisation and exposure and response prevention both evolved from respondent conditioning and have also received considerable research.

Social skills training teaches clients skills to access reinforces and lessen life punishment. Operant conditioning procedures in meta-analysis had the largest effect size for training social skills, followed by modeling, coaching, and social cognitive techniques in that order. Social skills training has some empirical support particularly for schizophrenia. However, with schizophrenia, behavioural programs have generally lost favour.


Behaviour therapy bases its core interventions on functional analysis. Just a few of the many problems that behaviour therapy have functionally analysed include intimacy in couples relationships, forgiveness in couples, chronic pain, stress-related behaviour problems of being an adult child of an alcoholic, anorexia, chronic distress, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and obesity.

Functional analysis has even been applied to problems that therapists commonly encounter like client resistance, practically engaged clients and involuntary clients. Applications to these problems have left clinicians with considerable tools for enhancing therapeutic effectiveness. One way to enhance therapeutic effectiveness is to use positive reinforcement or operant conditioning.

Many have argued that behaviour therapy is at least as effective as drug treatment for depression, ADHD, and OCD. Considerable policy implications have been inspired by behavioural views of various forms of psychopathology. One form of behaviour therapy (habit reversal training) has been found to be highly effective for treating tics.