Behaviour Therapy

Behavioral Therapy

Behaviorism sees psychological disorders as the result of maladaptive learning, as people are born tabula rasa (a blank slate). They do not assume that sets of symptoms reflect single underlying causes. Behaviorism assumes that all behavior is learned from the environment and symptoms are acquired through classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

Classical conditioning involves learning by association and is usually the cause of most phobias. Operant conditioning involves learning by reinforcement (e.g. rewards) and punishment and can explain abnormal behavior should as eating disorders.

Consequently, if the behavior is learned, it can also be unlearned.


Behavioral therapies are based on the theory of classical conditioning.  The premise is that all behavior is learned; faulty learning (i.e. conditioning) is the cause of abnormal behavior. Therefore the individual has to learn the correct or acceptable behavior. 

An important feature of behavioral therapy is its focus on current problems and behavior, and on attempts to remove behavior, the patient finds troublesome. This contrasts greatly with psychodynamic therapy (re Freud), where the focus is much more on trying to uncover unresolved conflicts from childhood (i.e. the cause of abnormal behavior).  Examples of behavior therapy