In my practice, I rely on a variety of behavioral strategies to help people make the types of change that will increase their life satisfaction. Behavior Therapy can be an effective intervention for dilemmas such as anxiety, depression and stress as well as helping parents shape more desirable behaviors in their children.
Unfortunately, Behavior Therapy is often misunderstood. People sometimes associate it with early forms of behavior modification involving dogs and bells. Today, it is a respectful, collaborative effort between client and therapist that can be very effective.
For many, changing existing attitudes, beliefs and automatic thoughts may be critically important in moving toward a more satisfying life. But we do not want to overlook the importance of simply changing what we do as a way of easing troubling thoughts, emotions and conflict in relationships. Often, modifying our actions can make the difference between relentless suffering or moving toward a future characterized by a sense of inner freedom and the capacity to experience sustained joy. Allow me to highlight a few examples of when Behavior Therapy can help.
The connection between the mind and the body has been well researched for decades. But most of us don’t need to read a scientific paper to understand that when our mind is tense, our muscles will likely feel tense as well. And despite our best efforts, we may not be able to relax our mind and body through ordinary strategies such as distracting our attention from the stress of the moment.
At such times, using a behavioral strategy such as relaxation training can help us relax our mind by learning how to consciously release tension in our muscles. If we can get our body to relax, our mind will follow. This is a strategy that has been used for decades to prepare women for childbirth. It is effective in managing many other varieties of stress and anxiety as well.
Behavioral strategies are very helpful in relieving depression. When a person is depressed, there is a natural urge is to isolate and withdraw from everyday life. Any effective treatment for reducing depression relies on activating behavior. Acting opposite to the impulse to withdraw gets a person engaged in activities again. Although not easy to accomplish, such behavioral strategies are very helpful in reducing the suffering and isolation of depression.
Parents also find behavior therapy helpful when attempting to compassionately manage a child’s undesirable behavior. Learning to use a combination of positively reinforcing strategies designed to promote effective behavior, along with the judicious use of other shaping strategies, can reduce conflict with children while guiding them toward increased collaboration both at home and at school. With a solid repertoire of strategies, parents can make it less likely that problem behaviors emerge moving forward.
If you would like to know more about how behavior therapy may be helpful to you, please contact me!