Behavioural Modification Therapy

Psychological .

Behavioural Modification Therapy

What is Behavioural Modification Therapy?

Behaviour Modification is based on the principles of behaviourist B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning and is a process of changing patterns of human behaviour over the long term by the use of motivational techniques. More simply, you can modify your own behaviour with positive consequences and negative consequences and motivation for change may include changing the environment and offering incentives.

If the consequences of an action are negative, there is a good chance the action or behaviour will not be repeated, and if the consequences are positive, the chances are better than the action or behaviour will be repeated. B.F. Skinner referred to this concept as “the principle of reinforcement.”

How does Behaviour Modification Therapy work?

ABA uses behaviour modification techniques in sessions including:

  • Positive reinforcement.
  • Negative reinforcement.
  • Systematic desensitization.
  • Aversion therapy. 

These techniques will be explained during assessment if the therapy is found suitable for you.

Why might I need Behavioural Modification?

Behaviour modification works with just about everyone, and has many potential applications, from improving a child’s behaviour to motivating employees to work more efficiently.

What can Behavioural Modification help with?

Behaviour Modification is also used to treat the following conditions:

  • Autism (ASD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Irrational fears and phobias
  • Drug and alcohol addiction issues
  • Dual Diagnosis
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder.
  • Offending Behaviour
  • Depression

How many sessions would I need?

Behaviour Modification plans and programs are never one-size-fits-all. Plans can be adapted to best the need of your situation and goals. Behaviour Modification therapy may also work best in conjunction with medications or other types of therapy.

Behavioural Modification Therapy Case Study

Zena is a 22 year old female who suffers from social anxiety and uses recreational drugs to manage her anxiety. She started using drugs when she was 16 years old and finds that this helps her become more sociable. She works for a company in the marketing department which involves attending networking events. Zena felt that if she did not attend these events, she would lose her job.

Assessment and treatment

Zena’s social anxiety and recreational drug use were highlighted as the behaviours that she wanted to address. There was a repeated cycle pattern of behaviour; Zena recognised that she experienced anxiety and that drug use was a mechanism to help her manage those feelings. Even though drugs had a positive impact on her, she understood that it also came with negative consequences (‘coming down feeling’ and she was engaging in illegal activity by using the drugs).

Zena worked with her therapist and identified some other techniques she could use to manager her anxiety when she feels that it is more intense. She was then assigned a treatment task plan:

  1. Relaxation techniques including deep breathing, keeping her head up and maintaining eye contact  with people. If she continues to practice this, she will learn to take rapid, shallow breaths that come from her chest and quietly exhales to decrease her heart rate and calm the nervousness.
  2. Practice the relaxation techniques by doing a mock social networking event function at the therapist office.
  3. Zena was then given the task of hosting a small party at home for family and friends.
  4. Zena was encouraged to continue to attend smaller network gatherings and move into larger social functions. By putting herself into these situations in stages, she was able to gradually develop her confidence and control her anxiety better using the breathing techniques.

In regards to her substance use, Zena was encouraged to consider a cost/benefit analysis. This involved looking at the benefits of using substances (eg good feelings, made her feel more confidence) and the costs (negative feelings after using drugs, the cost spent on drugs, illegal drug use, consequences if she tested positive on drug test which would mean losing her job, addiction, decline in health). She realised that the costs outweighed the benefits. 

If you would like to know more about how My Family Psychologist can help, call us on 07801 079555 or email

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