An overview of behavior modification: Definition, techniques, and significance

Behavior modification consists of strategies that aim to reinforce desired behavior and eliminate or change undesirable ones. Behavior management techniques are used in the classroom, therapy sessions, and in other psychological settings. The concept blossomed from the theories of classical conditioning by Ivan Pavlov and operant conditioning by B.F. Skinner, the “Father of Behaviorism.”

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Appropriate application of the techniques can yield positive results. Behavior modification techniques are widely used to treat disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, oppositional defiant disorder, and other issues like phobias. However, teachers and therapists should keep in mind that not all students and patients will respond positively to these strategies. Treating a person’s mental illness and other disabilities should not follow the “one size fits all” principle. Professionals should get to know the person to determine what techniques and treatments are best for the patient.

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Paul Gabrinetti taught behavior modification techniques as a part of an experimental project through California State University Northridge. He is working as a core faculty professor at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in California. For more articles on psychology, visit this blog.


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Paul Gabrinetti, Ph.D., is a core faculty professor in Clinical Psychology at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California. With four decades of professional experience, he has been on various teaching or consultancy roles from a number of prestigious institutions, including the University of Southern California, Antioch University, Pepperdine University, Woodland Hills Psychiatric Medical Group, Wesval Counseling Center, and The Institute for Human Studies.

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