Habit Formation Therapy

Psychological .

Habit Formation Therapy

What is Habit Formation Therapy?

Habit Formation Therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals develop positive habits and break negative ones. It involves identifying triggers and patterns associated with habits, understanding the underlying reasons for these behaviours, and implementing strategies to change them. It is based on the understanding the habits are behaviours that are formed through repetition and reinforcement, and that they can be difficult to change without intentional effort and support.

The concept of Habit Formation Therapy can be traced back to various psychological theories and practices, but the specific origins are not well documented despite being explored by a multitude of psychologists for many years. However, B. F. Skinner, a renowned psychologist known for his work on behaviourism and operant conditioning laid the foundation for understanding how habits are formed and can be modified through behavioural interventions, reinforcement and punishment.

How does Habit Formation Therapy work?

Habit Formation Therapy works by helping individuals identify their habits so they become more aware and understand the underlying reasons for their behaviours, the cues that trigger them, and develop alternative responses to these cues to change them. By creating new, healthier habits and reinforcing them through positive reinforcement, individuals can gradually replace old habits with new ones. Therapists may use techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), mindfulness and behaviour analysis to help clients identify triggers for their habits and develop healthier alternatives.

Step 1: The first step is to identify the specific habit or behaviour that the individual wants to change. This could be a physical habit (eg nail biting, hair pulling), or a mental habit (eg negative self-talk).

Step 2: Understanding triggers – the next step is to identify the triggers or cues that lead to the habit. Triggers can be external (eg stress, boredom), or internal (eg negative emotions, thoughts).

Step 3: Developing Awareness – the therapist helps the individual develop awareness of when the habit occurs, what triggers it, and the consequences of the habit. This awareness helps the individual to understand the patterns and reasons behind the habit

Step 4: Replacement Behaviours: the therapist helps the individual to develop alternative, healthier behaviours to replace the maladaptive habit. These replacement behaviours should serve the same function as the old habit, but in a more constructive way

Step 5: Monitoring Progress: the individual keeps track of when the habit occurs, what triggers it, and how successful they are in implementing the replacement behaviours. This helps to reinforce positive changes and identify areas for improvement.

Step 6: Relaxation Techniques: in some cases, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation may be used to help individuals manage stress and reduce the urge to engage in the maladaptive habit.

Step 7: Goal Setting: the therapist and individual work together to set specific, achievable goals for behaviour change. These goals should be realistic, measurable, and have a timeline for completion.

Step 8: Reinforcement and Positive Feedback: the therapist provides positive reinforcement and feedback to the individual for their efforts in changing the habit. This helps to motivate the individual to continue working towards their goals.

Why might you need Habit Formation Therapy?

You might need to access Habit Formation Therapy for a number of reasons, such as breaking harmful habits (eg substance abuse, smoking, or over-eating), improving productivity, improving time-management, improving positive habits such as exercise, healthy eating, and stress-management, or enhancing your overall wellbeing and mental health. Individuals who struggle with self-control or motivation may benefit from Habit Formation Therapy to develop healthier routines and behaviour. Certain types of people may benefit most from this therapy, for example individuals with addictive behaviours or personalities, chronic health conditions, or impulse control issues.

How many sessions do I need?

The therapy sessions are typically outlined based on the individual’s specific needs and goals. The number of sessions required can vary depending on the complexity of the habits being addressed and the progress made by the individual. A typical habit formation therapy programme may involve weekly or bi-weekly sessions over a period of several months.

Benefits of Habit Formation Therapy:

Some of the benefits of Habit Formation Therapy include improved self-awareness, increased resilience, increased self-discipline, enhanced motivation, and a greater sense of control over one’s behaviours and choices. By learning to modify their habits, individuals can experience positive changes in various areas of their lives, leading to better overall wellbeing.

In conclusion, Habit Formation Therapy is a valuable tool to help individuals make positive changes in their behaviour and improve their wellbeing. By working with a therapist to identify triggers, develop strategies, and build healthier habits, individuals can overcome harmful behaviours and cultivate a more fulfilling and balanced life.

If you would like more information about this or how My Family Psychologists can help, contact us on 07801 079 555 or luisa@myfamilypsychologist.com


  1. Lally, P., & Gardner, B. (2013). What Makes Habits Form? Modeling Habit Formation in the Real World. European Journal of Social Psychology, 44(3), 366-377.
  2. Duhigg, C. (2012). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Random House.
  3. Skinner, B. F. (1974). About Behaviorism. Vintage.
  4. Prochaska, J. O., Norcross, J. C., & DiClemente, C. C. (1994). Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward. William Morrow Paperbacks.
  5. Oaten, M., & Cheng, K. (2006). Longitudinal gains in self-regulation from regular physical exercise. British Journal of Health Psychology, 11(4), 717-733.
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