What is Behavior Modification?

Behavior modification is the result of the work of famous psychologist B.F Skinner. This treatment approach is based on the principle of operant conditioning, which seeks to replace undesirable behavior with desirable behavior based on the belief that behavior is shaped either by reinforcement or the lack of it. Similarly, it makes use of a scheduled approach, which punishes undesired behavior and rewards the desirable ones.

Components of Behavior Modification

Behavior modification has four important components

  • Positive Reinforcement – This encourages the desired behavior through a system of rewards. An example of positive reinforcement is offering the child his or her favorite toy or anything which they would like.
  • Negative Reinforcement – This form of reinforcement refers to encouraging the desired behavior through taking something unpleasant from the environment. The best example of negative reinforcement is the noise parents make to express their displeasure over what the child has done.
  • Positive Punishment – This means deterring a certain behavior by adding a consequence. A common example is spanking, but there are other alternatives which do not involve physical discipline.
  • Negative Punishment – This punishment entails taking something away from the person undergoing this treatment. This can be in the form of eliminating positive attention or taking away privileges like cell phone use.

Applications of Behavior Modification

Behavior Modification is used in the treatment of ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), enuresis (bed wetting), phobias, separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and autism. Behavior modification is also used for increasing desired behaviors in individuals and its systematic scale implementation in organizations can lead to increased productivity.

The Benefits and Risks of this Therapy

The direct benefit of behavior modification is improving the quality of life. Meanwhile, the specific benefits of the treatment vary depending on the specific condition being treated. These benefits may include:

  • Improved social skills
  • Fewer emotional outbursts
  • Better functioning in unfamiliar situations
  • Reduced incidents of self-harm
  • The ability to recognize the need of medical help
  • Better pain management
  • Improvement in emotional expressions

As for the risks included in this treatment, those are quite minimal. The risks of this treatment usually arise during exploring anxieties and feelings, leading to emotional outbursts of anger and crying. The therapy’s emotional aftermath can also be physically painful and exhausting. This is why the behavior modification therapist works towards improving the patient’s coping mechanism and minimizing any potential side effects which may result from the therapy.