While a few years ago, mental illness was still a taboo subject, today more and more open is reported about mental health problems and psychotherapies. In mental illness is often advised to cognitive behavioral therapy. But what is actually behind behavioral therapy?
Behavior therapy as part of psychotherapy
An unmanageable variety of therapeutic offers today promises help in alleviating mental health problems. However, not all psychotherapeutic treatment offers that can be claimed are recognized as curative. Behavior therapy is one of the few directions of psychotherapy whose effectiveness has often been scientifically proven. In addition to psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy, behavioral therapy is one of three psychotherapeutic directions whose treatment costs are covered by health insurance companies in Germany.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Behavioral therapy developed around the middle of the 20th century and at the beginning was strongly oriented towards externally visible, "disturbed" behavior of patients. However, it quickly became clear that not only the behavior, but also the thoughts and feelings of a patient have to be changed in order to treat a mental illness in the long term. Over time, the change in unfavorable thinking styles (cognitions) has been integrated as a fixed therapy component. Therefore, one speaks today of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In the meantime, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy unites a multitude of disorder-specific and interference-spanning exercises, techniques and methods, which are put together individually for each patient.
Behavioral therapy for mental illness
Numerous scientific studies have proven in recent years the effectiveness of behavioral therapy for many mental illnesses. These mental illnesses, which are primarily treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, include, for example:
- anxiety disorders
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- eating disorder
At the onset of behavioral therapy, the therapist will work with the patient to develop a disorder model that describes how the disorder originated and is sustained. Subsequently, a therapy plan is put together in which various therapeutic elements can be used flexibly.
Methods of behavioral therapy
The best known methods of behavioral therapy are probably the exposure and confrontation methods, which are often used, for example, for anxiety and panic disorders and constraints. The patient consciously seeks out the situations he is most afraid of. For example, a patient with a fear of heights rises to a very high tower, a spider-anxious woman picks up a tarantula, or a patient with a wash does not wash his hands for several hours. Other methods of behavioral therapy include, for example, systematic desensitization, relaxation techniques, methods of cognitive restructuring, problem-solving training or social competence training. Unlike other therapies, cognitive behavioral therapy is primarily problematic and goal-oriented. The patients also actively participate in the therapy. Often they are asked to keep diaries and records or to do some exposures and exercises independently.
Behavior therapy in children and adolescents
Even with children and adolescents very good treatment success can be achieved with behavioral therapy. An often occurring childhood disorder in which behavioral therapy is indicated is, for example, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Characteristics of ADHD are inattention, lack of concentration, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Behavioral therapy can playfully help children learn methods that help them better control their behavior and control it more consciously. Other disorders of adolescence, such as nocturnal wetting, aggressive and oppositional behavioral disorders, depression or anorexia (anorexia) can be treated with behavioral therapy.
Behavior therapy: training as a therapist
How to become a behavioral therapist? A license to practice as a behavioral therapist is given to psychologists and physicians who, after completing their psychology or medical studies, have completed a further training course as a behavioral therapist. Training in behavioral therapy is offered by many private training institutes in most major German cities, such as Berlin, Hamburg or Cologne.