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Behaviorist Psychotherapy

Behaviorism is another school of psychotherapy that started not long after the era of Sigmund Freud. It is …. Essential concepts of behavioral psychotherapy are classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and social learning theory.

Classical conditioning is basically respondent conditioning and, “refers to what happens prior to learning that creates a response through pairing,” (Corey, 2005, p.229). Ivan Pavlov demonstrated how classical conditioning works through experimentation with dog behavior.

Operant Conditioning is, “a type of learning in which behaviors are influenced mainly by the consequences that follow them,” (Corey, 2005, p.230). E.L. Thorndike ran experiments on cats that were rewarded with a treat if they learned how to open the doors of their cages (Day, 2008, p.309). From this he developed two varied laws. The law of exercise is when, “the more often a connection between a behavior and its consequence is made, the stronger the connection becomes (and, conversely with disuse the connection becomes weaker,” (Day, 2008, p.309). The law of effect is the theory that if there are positive consequences, the individual will continue with that behavior. However, if there are continuous negative consequences, the individual will be less likely to continue that behavior.

 Although Thorndike studied it initially, B.F. Skinner is seen in the psychology community as the father of operant conditioning as well as behavior modification. He contended that there must be some type of reinforcement in order for one to learn. According to B.F. Skinner, behavior modification, “is based on reinforcement principles and has the goal of identifying and controlling environmental factors that lead to behavioral change,” (Corey, 2005, p.230).

The characteristics of behavior therapy are scientific method, existing problems and factors influencing them, the client actively being open to and committing to do something in order to change their behavior, teaching the client how to practice self-management as well as

self-control, and a partnership between the client and therapist. In a nutshell, “the focus is on assessing overt and covert behavior directly, identifying the problem, and evaluating change,” (Corey, 2005, p.233). Different types are applied behavior analysis, systematic desensitization, aversion therapy, exposure therapies, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, relaxation, assertion training, and self-management (Corey, 2005; Day, 2008).

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