What is Behavioral Therapy?

What is behavioral therapy? Learn how behavioral therapy can help you recover from drug or alcohol addiction and take the first steps to recovery.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy, also known as behavior modification, is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing problematic behaviors. Behavioral therapy can treat various mental health issues and help people learn new skills. This therapy is often one of the first treatments recommended for mental health conditions. 1 
Behavioral therapy focuses on the modification of maladaptive behaviors. It is often used to treat mental disorders but can also treat physical conditions. Behavioral therapy is based on the theory that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected. By changing our behavior, we can change our thoughts and feelings. 1 


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What Does a Behavioral Therapist Do?

A behavioral therapist works with individual clients to explore thought patterns, unhealthy activities, and beliefs. 1 

Types of Behavioral Therapy

In behavioral counseling, many therapeutic techniques are used to treat clients. The following sections will explore a few of the most popular types of behavioral therapy.

Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is one of many behavioral therapy techniques used to encourage and promote healthy social skills and communication. ABA can be used to address punctuality, hygiene, positive behaviors, etc. 1 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to change negative thought patterns and maladaptive cognitions that may occur in response to trauma or other life events. This behavioral treatment approach focuses on the complex relationships between an individual’s behavior, thoughts, and feelings. 1 

Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy

Among the types of behavioral therapy, CBPT or cognitive behavioral play therapy is used for young children. 2 

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

DBT is an evidence-based behavioral therapy treatment that teaches mindfulness, stress management, acceptance, and emotional regulation. 3 

Exposure Therapy

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), exposure therapy is a behavioral approach to therapy that involves helping people confront their fears.4 

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Behavioral therapists use REBT to explore a person’s beliefs about an event instead of the event itself. 5 

Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory is a behavioral approach to therapy that involves observing and modeling behaviors. 6 

Techniques Used in Behavioral Therapy

In behavioral counseling, various classical and operant conditioning techniques are used. Keep reading to learn more about classical versus operant conditioning.

Classical Conditioning

In classical conditioning-based behavioral treatment approaches, a person learns to associate two things or events. 7 

Aversion Therapy

Aversion therapy is a behavioral approach to therapy where an individual learns to associate negative consequences with a stimulus instead of positive implications. 8 


Flooding is an exposure-based fear-reduction behavioral therapy model.8 

Systematic Desensitization

Systematic desensitization replaces adverse reactions to a stimulus during behavioral counseling with relaxation. 8 

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is a modeling technique in behavioral therapy that teaches a person to associate consequences with the behaviors that caused them.

Contingency Management

When behavioral counselors use contingency management, clients earn things like vouchers for not participating in unwanted behaviors.9 


Extinction is a behavioral treatment approach that aims to alter behavior by reducing or eliminating the reinforcers that maintain the behaviors. 9 

Behavior Modeling

Behavior modeling, derived from the Social Learning Theory, focuses on observation and modeling. 9 

Token Economies

In behavioral counseling, token economies are created with a reward system and reinforcers to minimize problem behaviors in children. 10 

What Behavioral Therapy Can Help With

A behavioral treatment approach can help clients with a wide range of diagnoses. The following sections will explore common conditions modern behavioral therapy can help with.

Bipolar Disorder

Behavioral therapy principles can be used to help individuals with a mental health diagnosis, including bipolar disorder.

Alcohol and Substance Use Disorders

Behavioral treatment approaches are helpful for individuals struggling with addiction and substance use disorders.


Behavioral therapy in counseling is helpful for all mental health diagnoses, including anxiety.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

If you or someone you care about struggles to manage the symptoms of ADHD, behavioral therapy interventions can be helpful.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Modern behavioral therapy, including CBT, is beneficial for individuals struggling with severe mental illnesses such as BPD.


Although depression can be a debilitating mental health condition, behavioral therapy techniques have been shown to help immensely.

Eating Disorders

Behavioral therapy interventions can address marital problems and eating disorders.

Is Behavioral Therapy Effective?

Extensive behavior research and therapy exploration has found that behavioral psychotherapy is effective.

Benefits of Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral psychotherapy offers many benefits for clients. 1  The following sections will discuss a few of the top benefits of behavioral counseling.


Improved communication is a leading goal of behavior therapy. During behavioral counseling, individuals learn about healthy forms of communication and boundaries.

Coping Strategies

Coping strategies are an integral component of behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapists use CBT and other therapeutic interventions to teach coping skills.

Healthier Thought Patterns

Another goal of behavioral therapy is to disrupt maladaptive thoughts and replace them with healthier thought patterns.


Improvements in self-esteem are another goal of behavioral therapy. People with healthy self-esteem are less likely to participate in self-destructive behaviors and more likely to hold their boundaries.

How To Get Started With Behavioral Therapy

Are you ready to get involved with behavioral therapy? Keep reading to learn about the steps you can take to get started today.

Find a Behavioral Therapist

To start, you can find a local therapist using the APA’s psychologist locator. 11 

Ask for Recommendations

When finding a therapist, it can be helpful to ask trusted friends and family members for referrals or recommendations. 11 

Contact Your Health Insurance

If you have health insurance, it’s often best to contact your insurance provider for a list of in-network therapists you can choose from. 11 

Set Goals

When discussing your treatment with your therapist, set goals for yourself to help guide your treatment plan.

Be an Active Participant

To get the most out of your therapy sessions, it’s critical to be an active participant, ask questions, and voice your feelings openly.

Get Behavioral Therapy at Concise Recovery

Concise Recovery is the leading behavioral therapy provider in Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley. Concise Recovery provides a knowledgeable team of behavioral counselors that utilize a full spectrum of behavioral health techniques to heal a person’s mind, body, and soul.

Inpatient Care

Residential inpatient or addiction rehab is an intensive program for clients struggling to overcome substance use disorders. Concise Recovery supports each client with a highly structured environment for sustainable healing.

Outpatient Care

Concise Recovery also offers partial day and outpatient programs to treat addiction.

Therapies for Addiction

At Concise Recovery, clients receive treatment for their mental health and substance use diagnoses. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) are a few of the evidence-based treatment modalities used.

Contact Us To Learn More

Contact Concise Recovery today to learn more about its programs and client-centered services.