Behavior theory uses four areas of human development, which are: classical conditioning, operant conditioning, social learning theory, and cognitive behavior theory. Classical conditioning is pairing a response with a stimulus through learning. Operant conditioning is learning behaviors by the consequences that come after the behavior. Social Learning theory states that stimulus events, external reinforcement and cognitive mediational processes influence behavior.
Behavior theory defines human nature, as the person is the producer and the product of the environment. This means that the client produces parts of their environment and their interaction with it, while at the same time they are also a part of that environment and it acts on them.
The goals of therapy are: increasing personal choice and create new conditions for learning. They also formulate specific goals to work on in therapy. The therapist's role is to be active, directive, and function as consultants and problem-solvers. The therapist also works as a role model for the client. The client's experience in therapy is awareness and participation. Clients are encouraged to experiment to enlarge their adaptive behaviors. The relationship between the therapist and client is characterized by cooperation with the therapy. The relationship may have warmth, empathy, and authenticity but that is not enough, it is also a base for the therapeutic interventions.
The techniques and procedures used in behavior theory are many. Operant conditioning techniques are used, such as positive and negative reinforcement and positive and negative punishment and extinction. Positive reinforcement is adding something of value. Negative reinforcement is the avoidance of aversive stimuli. Extinction is withholding reinforcement from a previously reinforced response. Positive punishment is adding aversive stimuli after the behavior. Negative punishment is removing a reinforcing stimulus following the behavior. They also use relaxation therapy to help the client get used to stimuli. Also used is systematic desensitization. Clients imagine more and more stressful situations.
The contributions of behavior theory are: challenging us to reconsider our global approach to counseling, the wide range of techniques they can use, the emphasis on research and emphasis on ethical responsibility. The limitations are: it does not change feelings, ignores the important relational factors, does not provide insight, treats symptoms rather than causes, and involves control and manipulation by the therapist.
I think there are some benefits to behavioral theory. It helps people change dysfunctional behaviors before they hurt themselves or someone else. It helps people return to the mainstream life behaviorally. It helps therapists by giving us research into the reason behind behaviors.
The thing I like about behavior therapy is the use of specific goals in the therapy. This is helpful so that the therapist can get an idea what the client wants to look at during therapy. It also helps both people know exactly what is expected of them as an end goal.
The things I do not like about behavior theory are: the use of only behavioral techniques, the lack of care in the relationship, and the fact that people are treated as though their thoughts and feelings do not count. If a therapist is only looking at behaviors there is a lot of cognitive stuff that will get missed in this theory. The relationship is not as caring and compassionate as in other theories. I know that they are looking to change behaviors, but the client still has to have the level of trust that will allow them to accept help from a therapist. When you treat just the behaviors then it looks like a person's thoughts and feelings do not count for anything. Even in behavioral theory there should be room for the thoughts and feeling of a person, since the thoughts and feelings can cause some of the behaviors that are being changed. If the thoughts and feelings are not addressed, then the behaviors might come back.
The thing I would incorporate into my theory would be the use of specific goals. I think it can be important to know at least what a person want s out of therapy to be able to help them. I think it is important to know what the client expects to some degree or therapy will not work for them.
I see behavioral theory being useful to me in such things as breaking bad habits, and becoming less afraid of heights. I have a bad habit of chewing my fingernails. This would possibly help break the habit by helping me start to realize techniques I can use to stop. Desensitization would help with my fear of heights by helping me get used to heights slowly by imaging them.I do see where behavioral theory would be useful but I still think there needs to be a component to help people with their thoughts and feelings. I think that if the thoughts and feelings are not dealt with then the behaviors can come back under stress.