Behavior modification, or behavior therapy, is a system of therapy techniques designed to target self-destructive behaviors and replace them with positive ones through a reward/consequence system. Behavior modification therapy is most often used for mood or anxiety disorders, such as:
- Bipolar Disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Phobia
- Autism and ADHD
- Substance Abuse
Although behavior therapy is used by medical professionals to help individuals of any age, children and adolescents are generally the most receptive to positive changes. Because their brains are still developing, they are more emotionally and mentally malleable. The earlier you can start therapy, the more successful your child will be.
How Does It Work?
The basics of behavior therapy are similar to what many parents know instinctively. Positive and negative reinforcement are utilized in order to trade bad behavior for positive behavior. You are rewarded when you meet your goals and follow the rules and you receive consequences when you deviate. The difference between a therapeutic behavior modification plan and every day parenting is clear guidelines, consistency and constant revision throughout the process.
- Clear Guidelines – It is crucial that you and your teen clearly state what is expected and what the rewards and consequences will be in result. Choose just a few behaviors to work on at a time, so your child doesn’t get overwhelmed. Make sure that the rewards and consequences are of high value to him in order to create healthy motivation. Some parents have found it helpful to write a “contract” between themselves and their child in order to physically establish the parameters of the plan.
- Consistency – Strict consistency is required if behavior modification is going to work. This can be difficult for exhausted parents tempted to let some things slide. Unfortunately, when you are trying to effectively change ingrained behavior, you have to demonstrate that the rewards and consequences will be what you say they are every time. Some negative behavior can take a while to change, and consistency is the key.
- Flexibility – Your child will develop different needs and motivations as he works his way through the treatment process. Keep your teen in the loop when you make a change, but reassess and readjust when needed. It may take some tweaking to figure out the right combination for your son in each new stage of his recovery. It is also important to remain flexible in terms of accepting help. Some cases are simply too severe to be treat on your own, with the many distractions and triggers of day to day life. In such cases, professional, full time help can be extremely valuable.
Results of Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral modification therapy has seen much success in recent years for many types of disorders and conditions; however, it should not be considered a ‘cure’.Rather, it should be seen as a teaching method to help troubled teens gain the tools they need in order to cope with their challenges and engage in positive daily interaction.
Liahona Academy is a residential treatment center located in southern Utah. We specialize in helping troubled teen boys overcome their challenges through individualized behavior modification plans. We have helped thousands of teens return home healthier and happier. Call us today for a free consultation (800-675-8101).