3 reasons to choose behavior therapy instead of traditional play or talk therapy for your child:
Behavior therapy is focused on fairly immediate behavior change that can happen after just one or two sessions, provided you are able to follow through with my recommendations. Behavior therapy does not wait for change that is the result of slowly gained insight or the result of positive interactions within the therapist-child relationship. Your time is valuable, and frankly, so is mine. I am looking for the fastest way to help you achieve a positive and lasting change with your child. Together, we will carefully track target behaviors and every time we meet we will review whether or not the desired change is occurring. If it isn’t, we will try something different, but that something different will always be based on what research and my experience has shown to be effective!
Behavior therapy works with those who are most likely to inspire change in the client. Parents usually bring children to therapy because they want the child to change some behavior that is causing trouble for others. Unfortunately, kids are not terribly motivated to change their own behavior, and so the individual or play therapy that many therapists provide is just not very effective in making things better. In many cases, children repeat negative behaviors because they are getting what they want as a result of those behaviors, even when what they are getting seems to be pretty negative (i.e. getting yelled at, etc.). Even children who are unhappy with their own behavior are often not very motivated to make an effort to change themselves – this takes a level of insight and self-awareness that most children just haven’t developed yet. As a result, I often work with parents first to figure out how we will inspire children to make better choices, since adults are far more motivated and far more capable of intentionally making changes in what they do. When we have identified specific skills that a child needs in order to be able to make better choices, I often do that skills training with you included in the session so that you can also learn how to model, practice, and prompt your child to use those skills outside of the therapy session. Work with adolescents is also very skills-focused, and so individual work with adolescents is generally only done with teens who are motivated to learn some strategies and skills to apply in their daily lives. Even in those cases, I strongly believe in regular communication with parents about what skills are being taught in therapy, so that you can always be assured that we are working on concrete strategies that will make a difference in your child’s life.
Behavior therapy is effective. Behavior analysts are trained in techniques that are proven by research to be effective in changing behavior. If what we are doing doesn’t work, we will do something different – but always guided by the principles and research findings of the science of behavior. There is a reason that the gold standard treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD or ADD), Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder is behavior therapy!
What to expect from behavior therapy:
In our first session or two, I will listen to your concerns and your hopes and dreams for how things could be different for your child. I will make sure that we have a clear definition of the behavior change that you want to see, prioritizing the one or two behaviors we want to start with. The first session is almost always without the child present, so that you can feel comfortable sharing everything that is of concern without causing your child to feel ashamed or angry. You will leave this session with some concrete strategies to get started on the road to positive behavior change!
In consultation with you, I will develop a behavioral “prescription” for what you can do in order to make the desired behavior change happen. This will involve ensuring your child has the skills needed to change his/her behavior, and making sure that he/she is motivated to make this change. We will figure out how you can reinforce your child for demonstrating new replacement skills – and how to avoid reinforcing (or rewarding) those old negative behaviors. I will make sure you know exactly what to do, and together we will problem-solve any issues that come up.
At every session, we will review how things are going to see whether behavior change is happening as we want it to. If not, we will adjust what we are doing by using different rewards, changing your response to the behavior, or teaching new skills. As a team, we can make changes that will make your child feel happier and more successful, usually in very little time compared with traditional therapy approaches. When we have strategically and successfully addressed all of your concerns, we will make sure we put into place whatever is needed to maintain those gains after therapy sessions are terminated.
At the end:
Behavior therapy stays behavior-focused, so when you’ve met your goals, our therapy sessions will end. I have found that I usually meet with parents and average of 4-6 sessions, at which time things are much improved and they are ready to take a break from regular sessions. Booster sessions will always be available, and if a new problem crops up, we can certainly re-institute regular sessions until the issue is resolved. The end result is a happy, calm home where children and parents feel confident and successful.