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Behavioral theory: models, use in therapeutic relationships and implementation in social work practice

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Carleton D.
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  1. Introduction
  2. The best way to assist clients
  3. The classical conditioning model
  4. The counter-conditioning and aversion technique
  5. Conclusion

Counseling practices require that professionals put themselves in the minds of patients in order to understand situations well. A mental health professional can, therefore, choose to work in many environments; either private or public. In all these cases, counseling is aimed at getting the best out of a patient and instilling behavioral changes gradually (Okun & Kantrowitz, 2008). The purpose and roles played by professional counselors should be explored depending on the types of clients they handle. This paper discusses behavioral theory in counseling, explaining its theoretical model, techniques and its use of therapeutic relationships. In behavioral therapy, professionals main attention is on observable behavior, what determines behavior, learning experiences which would promote behavioral change, treatment strategies and thorough evaluation and assessment (Corey, 2009). In this regard, behavioral theory is aimed at using behavior's characteristics to make changes to existing characters through the process of learning. This theory assumes that all behaviors are learnt through interaction with the environment and can be reversed following thorough analysis of this learning process (Okun & Kantrowitz, 2008).

Behavioral therapists use the notion that emotions, feelings and thoughts are immeasurable, hence the best way to assist clients is by observing behaviors. This is an effective approach because they do not have to strain understanding what clients think. It would be a hectic process trying to establish yourself in the client's mind hence observing behavior is one effective way of determining how best to assist them. It is assumed that behaviors are products of learning process when people interact with their environment. New behaviors are learnt through operant or classical conditioning (McLeod, 2007). In this regard, both simple and complex behaviors can be minimized to stimulus-responsive characteristics. Okun and Kantrowitz (2007) further describe that behavior is shaped and maintained by its consequences.

[...] Behavioral theory: models, use in therapeutic relationships and implementation in social work practice Behavioral theory: models, use in therapeutic relationships and implementation in social work practice. Counseling practices require that professionals put themselves in the minds of patients in order to understand situations well. A mental health professional can, therefore, choose to work in many environments; either private or public. In all these cases, counseling is aimed at getting the best out of a patient and instilling behavioral changes gradually (Okun & Kantrowitz, 2008). [...]


[...] Behavioral theory is effective in treating eating disorders; this is following realization of a new method called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Enhanced (CBT-E) (Neukrug, 2010). Eating disorder is a hard fought problem which required closer attention. In a recent study, approximately two- thirds of patients who completed treatment showed a lasting positive response and were well out of eating disorders. This is the effectiveness of behavioral technique and can also be applied in handling other emotional and mental disorder (Corey, 2009). [...]

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