Behavior therapies for adults

Origin of civilization and behavior

Edward Thorndike was the first person to describe behavior therapy in 1911. He focused on methods that modify behavior. Clearly, there was a reason to wish that behavior be altered; thus implying that behavior can become malfunctioned and subsequently requires timely repair like a mechanical or electrical devices. Behavior therapy is as old as civilization itself. Asking a third person for advice regarding how to deal with the ill impact of another’s actions on oneself is behavior therapy. There is a range of techniques that can be used to change behavior of oneself or another. Behavior therapy without mindfulness is seen in animals (it is well understood as training). Human behavior is connected with thoughts and feelings. These are incorporated in the therapy paradigm.

Understanding behavior

Behavior is anything that a human or animal does which is observable by another. Thoughts are different from behavior as it seems like no one can measure them; likewise emotion too. However thought and emotion impact behavior, thus change in either transforms behavior. Behaviorists believe that personal thinking and the environment define behavior. Since all human nature is manipulated by infinite influencers, understanding behavior mechanics is important to implement change in a ‘dysfunctional’ behaviors and mitigate ‘positive’ ones. While traditional behavior modification approaches are known to each one who wishes to change the conduct of another (rewarding a good action and punishing a bad one), the minds of today are more complex and markedly stubborn, thus behavior modification and behavior therapy ought to follow scientific principles and must be guided by experts.

Learning and unlearning

Behavior is a learned phenomenon. Everything we (or our spouses or children or friends or neighbors or anyone we know; even animals!) do has been learned and become a pattern. And if this is unwanted and uncomfortable, it needs to change. Behavior therapy aims at breaking an undesirable pattern of behavior by unlearning negative attitudes and actions; and replacing them with wanted and appropriate repetitions, which then frequently seem like ‘good habits’. Habits are created,nurtured and conditioned; breaking them is no simple task.

Faulty learning

Behavior modification procedure involves an initial analysis of the unwanted behavior in great detail. The therapist may take lengthy in depth interviews to understand the faulty behavior (temper tantrum in a child or smoking for instance in an adult). The pattern of dysfunction is identified. There is always some precursor or certain aftermath of a particular behavior that makes it repetitive. Seldom would we repeat an action that brings negative outcomes. Negative thought processes like worry, anger, sadness become part of one’s existence, drinking or smoking outwardly eases tension and apprehension; thus the mind tends to repeat these actions. Behaviors thus get deeply engrained.


The challenge is to break inappropriate behavior by unlearning the reward and conditioning oneself to change the situation or thought or emotion associated with it, in order to change the behavior itself. Complex behaviors are broken down into simpler steps and then small successes are monitored in order to achieve greater heights in personal improvement. Often the task seems overwhelming but when broken down, it becomes plausible and attainable. Rewards can be set for the stepwise tasks, homework assignments are allotted and regular checks are kept in place. There are over 30 different behavior modification strategies at MINDFRAMES and each of these target specific negative behavior patterns. The mind is highly moldable, if only we choose to soften it and shape it rightly. Glass too can be bent and shaped into beautiful artefacts. Those that claim that change is impossible, simply choose to not try. After all, one that doesn’t bend either stays as it is (rigid, unyielding, unappreciated and despised) or breaks. Make the wiser choice!

Faulty behaviors

Faulty behaviors are the source of trouble. Some of these include:

  • Negative temperament
  • Pessimistic thinking
  • Aggressive conduct
  • Short-temperedness
  • Repetitive rituals
  • Smoking and drinking
  • Nagging behaviors
  • Apathetic attitudes

Behavior therapy methods

These are the different techniques used for modifying behavior

  • Operant conditioning
  • Respondent conditioning
  • Covert conditioning
  • Contingency management
  • Habit reversal training
  • Systematic desensitization
  • Flooding and Implosion
  • Exposure & response prevention

Frequently Asked Questions

Hpw can adults be conditioned?
Many adults develop negative patterns of behavior that become habitual. Most of the apparently righteous behaviors sometimes don’t seem to draw pleasure. Hence people tend to react with dysfunctional behaviors and cannot change them. Conditioning thus generates faulty behavior and we need methods to mend it.

Frequently Asked Questions

But behaviors are like habit, they don’t change easily in adults
True that clay is easy to mold and shape while wet. A dry misshapen pot will break but not mend itself. Thus negative behaviors persist. A gradual ‘shaping’ and ‘graded task’ assignment is offered to gently modify behaviors. Daily success and failures are charted and these are guided towards the ultimate goal of positive behavior.