What Is Behavioral Health Therapy?

Approximately 1 in 5 U.S. adults experienced some form of mental illness in 2020. This shows how behavioral health problems are so prevalent in our society. An understanding of behavioral health therapy is essential.

In this article, we aim to show you that behavior change is possible. We do this by offering behavioral health therapy tips and a comprehensive guide. Continue reading if you want relief from the most common forms of behavioral problems. 

What Is Behavioral Health?

The term behavioral health refers to a person’s routine cognitive habits. These habits affect a person’s well-being.

They also affect how they deal with and respond to their emotions. Examples include stress, confusion, anger, and sadness.

What Is Behavioral Health Therapy?

You’ve likely searched the phrase, ‘behavioral health therapy explained.’ If so, you understand that the term is ambiguous. Behavioral health therapy is a blanket term for treatments of mental health disorders. 

Therapy involves the understanding that people learn behaviors. It also involves understanding that behaviors can be re-learned or changed. 

Disorders Treated With Behavioral Health Therapy

An important part of our behavioral health therapy guide is understanding when to seek help. Most unwanted behaviors improve from behavioral therapy. But, some disorders are treated more often than others. 

The below list includes some of the most common disorders treated with behavior therapy. Each disorder can be treated with a variety of treatment techniques. 


Behavioral health therapy is among the most common treatments for anxiety-related disorders. This includes panic disorders, social interaction phobias, and more. 

The therapy process typically involves two pieces of understanding. The first is how a person’s thoughts contribute to their anxiety. The second is how their actions trigger an emotional experience. 


Individuals suffering from depression can benefit from a behavioral health therapy clinic. Professionals start by understanding a patient’s depressive episodes. 

They try to understand their mental and behavioral patterns. These patterns show them what causes depressive episodes and how to treat them. 

Patients learn to navigate their moods, beliefs, and views on life. This helps them to start developing coping mechanisms. The end goal is to replace these negative thoughts in the moments of a depressive episode.

Substance Abuse

Behavioral health therapy for substance abuse was first developed to help treat alcoholism. Professionals eventually adapted the treatment to include addictions to other substances. 

The goal of therapy is not just stopping a person’s dependency on drugs. It’s also changing other behavioral problems that occur in conjunction with substance abuse. Patients learn how to improve their self-control and self-monitoring.

Other Disorders

You might think you’d benefit from therapy, but don’t see your condition listed above. One of our top behavioral therapy tips is don’t let that stop you. Reach out to a behavioral health therapy clinic to discuss your options. 

Behavioral therapy helps treat unwanted behaviors stemming from a variety of disorders. This includes ADHD, anger, eating, self-harm, OCD, and many more. It’s worth contacting a clinic such as the residential recovery center to find out more.

Types of Behavioral Health Therapy

Due to the wide range of behavioral disorders, there is a wide range of therapies to meet their needs of each. It’s important to note that treatment plans vary. Two patients with the same disorder may have completely different treatment plans.

Treatment plans are based on several factors. These include the disorder, the type of behavior, and the patient’s daily life. Treatment plans are uniquely constructed to ensure the highest chances of success. 

Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a type of behavioral therapy. It uses positive or negative reinforcement to alter behavior. The process involves identifying triggers, understanding responses, and examining the outcomes. 

Once patients understand this information, they work with their behavioral specialists to set incremental goals. The end goal is always positive behavioral changes.

For example, instead of a patient screaming ‘no,’ when told to go to bed, they can ask for 5 more minutes of play. This helps teach them positive alternatives to expressing their desires. ABA is a common treatment for individuals on the Autism spectrum. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps identify negative or irrational thoughts. Examples of this type of thinking include self-deprecation and catastrophizing. In these cases, you believe the worst thoughts about yourself or an upcoming situation.

Examples of these thoughts include, ‘I’m a failure’ or, ‘I’m going to ruin this project.’

One of the goals of this type of therapy is learning a different mindset. Patients learn to acknowledge and accept these thoughts. Then, they work on re-framing them.

Cognitive Behavioral Health Play Therapy

Cognitive behavioral play therapy is a derivative of CBT. It’s designed to help young children navigate their thought processes. Therapy involves incorporating games such as puzzles, puppets, and storytelling.

The ability for children to use their toys to transmit coping skills. They get to practice the behavior change. Then, they get to work through the outcomes of this behavior.

This can also be effective if the child watches and learns from role-playing as well. The process allows children to take an active role in their treatment.

As they master their behavior, they adopt a sense of responsibility and ownership over the change. 

Dialectical Behavioral Health Therapy

Another form of CBT is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). It was originally designed for people with borderline personality disorder. 

It’s now used for people who have trouble regulating their emotions. The inability to regulate emotions can lead to self-destructive behaviors. 

Successful DBT allows patients to develop mindfulness and live in the present moment. Mindfulness is important for a person to understand what is occurring in their mind. As a situation unfolds, they need to understand what’s happening before reacting.

DBT helps patients remain calm when experiencing emotional pain. It helps them avoid harmful, impulsive behaviors and patterns. They can successfully constructively manage their emotional distress.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a therapeutic method intended to combat anxiety disorders. Avoiding certain situations can lead to sustaining the fear long term. It prevents you from overcoming it.

The concept behind exposure therapy is to develop a tolerance to certain situations. Patients start with the least threatening situation. Gradually, they expose themselves to more difficult situations until they are no longer fearful of them. 

By gradually exposing themselves to these situations, their anxiety becomes easier to manage. The situations become less daunting. Instead of teaching themselves that they can’t handle a situation, they teach themselves how to handle them.

Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory operates on three assumptions. These assumptions are below.

  1. People learn through observation
  2. Learning comes from a person’s mental state
  3. Learning a behavior does not automatically mean behavior will change

A person may learn to behave in a certain way if they see someone else behave in the same way. They can also learn a behavior if they are given some sort of verbal or visual model. Their mental state helps determine whether or not they adopt the behavior.

Patients need to understand how they learned a particular behavior. By doing so, they can participate in efforts to change their behavior and learn alternate ways to deal with their emotions. 

Classical Conditioning

The above therapies in our behavioral health therapy guide implement various techniques. These techniques are based on either classical conditioning or operant conditioning. 

Classical conditioning affects the way a person associates certain impulses. Therapy aims to alter stimuli to elicit a different response. This can be done through aversion therapy, flooding, or system desensitization.

Aversion Therapy

Aversion therapy associates an unwanted behavior with something a patient finds undesirable. It’s typically used to break habits. Examples include substance abuse, gambling, or certain emotional responses.

One example of aversion therapy involves wearing a rubber band around the wrist. When a patient has an urge to use, they snap the band against their wrist to create mild discomfort. This discomfort becomes associated with their cravings.

Aversion therapy can be effective if the right associations are made. Specialists determine success by the longevity of these results.

If the client maintains their sobriety or abstinence from the behavior, the therapy succeeded. In general, the chance of relapsing is high once treatment discontinues. 


Flooding is similar to exposure therapy but on an extreme scale. With this type of therapy, an individual has no choice but to face their fear on an intense and rapid level.

Patients don’t gradually progress to a high level of difficulty. Instead, they start at the highest level of difficulty until they overcome their fear. They aren’t able to escape from the situation and must use their coping mechanisms.

While intense, this technique tends to yield the quickest results. It also tends to be an effective way of overcoming phobias. 

System Desensitization

Another type of exposure therapy is system desensitization. It falls on the opposite side of the spectrum from flooding.

With this therapy, a patient is not directly confronting their fears. Instead, they make a list of their fears ranked from least fearful to most fearful.

Therapy starts by focusing on the item that scares them the least. They spend time visualizing it and experiencing the applicable emotions. As their anxiety builds, they learn to introduce calming techniques to avoid panic.

Treatment teaches coping techniques. Examples include taking slow, deep breaths, relaxing their muscles, and visualizing themselves in a state of calm. Eventually, they work on confronting their fear in real-life. 

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is another technique used in a behavioral health therapy clinic. This involves the use of reinforcement, modeling, and punishment to change behavior. 

Since these are introducing a stimulus to alter behavior, the results tend to occur quicker than classical conditioning. This is because they change the association with the behavior and no longer have a positive experience. 

Behavior Modeling

Behavior modeling derives from social learning theory, meaning we learn by what we see other people do and what other people tell us. While this can be negative, such as witnessing abusive behavior, it can also be positive. 

Patients get to experience alternative ways of handling certain situations and see positive results. Therapy helps patients take a negative learned behavior and learn a positive alternative. 

This course of treatment is effective for people suffering from phobias. For example, seeing someone that overcame a fear of social settings can help provide encouragement and relief to patients currently undergoing treatment. 

Contingency Management

Contingency management involves a written outline that details the goals for behavior change. It also explains how the behavior will be reinforced and how relapses will be punished. It serves as a type of contract for the patient.

The contract exists between the patient and their therapist or another person. It’s a helpful way of providing clear goals, expectations, and details of the process. Patients have a clear outlook on what success and failure look like. 

It holds both parties accountable for the outcome since each person’s responsibilities are outlined. This is often used with other treatment techniques to introduce effective coping mechanisms to manage behavior. 


When a child throws a tantrum, they’re usually wanting their caregiver’s attention. When a parent doesn’t acknowledge the tantrum and instead places the child in a timeout, they are using extinction as means of behavioral health therapy.

This process helps weaken a particular behavioral response because the desired result is no longer received. Since they don’t get a rewarding result, they are less likely to participate in the behavior in the future. 

The key to extinction is consistency. If you continue the behavior long enough, the individual eventually learns to associate their behavior with an unwanted result. This eventually leads to them stopping the behavior altogether without the need for further treatment. 

Behavioral Health Therapy Explained

The above behavioral health therapy guide should give you an adequate understanding of the treatment process. Seeking out a behavioral health therapy clinic can start you on the path to better behavior.

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