By: Tina Willingham

Behavior Therapy

Behavior therapy “focuses on directly observable behavior, current determinants of behavior, learning experiences that promote change, tailoring treatment strategies to individual clients, and rigorous assessments and evaluation.” (Corey, 2013) Behavior therapy originated in the 1950’s based on classical and operant conditioning. Behavior therapy is very diverse now compared to its origins. Some of the techniques that are used are “cognitive therapy, social skills training, relaxation training and mindfulness strategies.” (Corey, 2013) Albert Ellis was the first to introduce a therapeutic approach to behavior therapy using rational emotive therapy. (National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, 2008) Rational emotive therapy basic principle is that our beliefs cause our emotional responses to events in our lives.

There are four themes of behavior therapy: scientific, active, present focus and learning focus. The scientific theme looks at what has been proven to work in the past. The entire process has been precisely defined and specific protocols put in place to treat the behavior. These treatments are derived from experimentation and observation instead of theories. Progress is closely monitored throughout the entire process “using quantitative measurements of the behaviors to be changed.” (Guevremont & Spiegler, 2010, p. 6) In active theory clients actively participate in changing the behavior instead of only talking about them. It is classified as an action therapy instead of a verbal therapy. Clients may be taught coping skills that they will need to monitor at home and report back with the results of using a particular coping skill. This allows the problem to be worked on in the environment and setting that it is happening in. Present focus themed therapy focusses on the present and what is happening currently only. Present circumstances are looked at to determine why the behavior is happening and to eliminate the unwanted behavior. Learning focused themed therapy focuses on the learning aspect of behaviors. Through three different aspects clients are educated on their behaviors and taught new ways of eliminating the unwanted behavior. There are three different aspects of learning focused therapy that show how important learning is to therapy. The first one is that behaviors are primarily developed, maintained and change by learning. The second one is that clients are taught new behaviors to replace the unwanted behaviors. Third is that some behavior therapies were developed from basic learning principals like classical and operant conditioning.

There are four characteristics of behavior therapy that “help distinguish it from other forms of psychotherapy: individualized therapy, stepwise progression, treatment packages and brevity.” (Guevremont & Spiegler, 2010, p. 8)Individualized therapy allows for a treatment plan to be specific to the client. Reinforcements are used to engage the client in adapting the behavior. Stepwise progression therapy starts with a simple plan that progresses to a hard plan to change the behavior. Treatment packages use more than one behavior therapy to treat the client. Brevity is that behavior treatments are normally take short periods of time to achieve the desired results. Not all behavior therapies are short-term though. For more severe or complex behaviors treatment period will be much longer than other behaviors.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT) is a combination of cognitive and behavioral theories of depression. CBT focuses on the relationships between a persons thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The two goals of CBT are thinking patterns and develop skills to problem solve. “It aims to change the negative hopeless patterns of thinking described by the cognitive models of depression. Second, it aims to help people with depression solve concrete problems in their lives and develop skills for being more effective in their world.” (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2011) “Cognitive therapy focuses on a person's thoughts and beliefs, and how they influence a person's mood and actions.” (Psychotherapies, 2014) They aid in helping a person to change their thinking to a more healthy thought pattern. The second part is the behavioral aspect which focuses on actions and behavior patterns. By blending the two therapies you get a style that focuses not only on thoughts but actions as well. Cognitive behavioral therapies work well in cases of depression. Aaron Beck’s cognitive therapy has a foundation that psychological disorders are maintained by distorted cognitions, and the goal is to modify these cognitions. CBT challenges irrational beliefs. Beck’s theory challenges the irrational belief with the use of hypothesis’s. Cognitive therapy has primarily focused on treating depression. In recent years it has been used to treat other anxiety disorders. The techniques used in cognitive therapy are cognitive intervention and overt behavioral interventions. In cognitive intervention faulty logic is analyzed then an alternative interpretation is generated and finally responsibility is reassigned. Overt behavioral interventions not only change cognitions but change behaviors, “which indirectly modifies their cognitions and emotions.” (Spiegler & Guevremont, 2010)

Helping with Procrastination

Procrastination is something we all can relate too. One way of helping with procrastination is through cognitive behavior therapy. By focusing on the relationships between a persons thoughts, feelings we can understand the behavior of procrastination. One way to achieve this is through the use of goal setting. Using SMART goals is one way to help achieve a desired outcome. SMART goals stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result-Focused and Timely. An example of this might look like the following:

I procrastinate on reading my chapters for school every week, I put others needs before my own and my personal time for school gets smaller and smaller. If I think a class seems hard I will put off the reading until when I am trying to do my assignments. This makes it very difficult to complete my assignments.

Specific Goal: My goal is to read all assigned chapters by noon on Saturday of each week,

Measurable: I will dived the chapters assigned between the three days that I have allotted to reading.

Achievable: There will be set reading times in my schedule to achieve this goal. Thursday and Friday evening from 7:00pm until 11:00pm will be designated as reading time as well as Saturday morning from 9:00am to 12:00pm.

Result-Focused: The outcome of my goal will prepare me for all homework that is due from Saturday through Wednesday of the following week. I will be more prepared for larger assignments that are due during the week as well.

Timeliness: The timeline is 2 1/2 days to achieve my goal for the week.


Corey, G. (2013). Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.

Guevremont, D. C., & Spiegler, M. D. (2010). Contemporary Behavior Therapy (5th ed.). Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2011). (ab)normal psychology (5th ed.). New York, New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Psychotherapies. (2014). Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health: