All human behavior falls within the domain of the behavior therapist, and practitioners of behavioral treatment are to be found among educators and special educators, psychologists, social workers,medical professionals,and paraprofessionals in every area of human service. The frequent criticism that applied behaviorism ignores subjective (i.e., mental) events has been blunted in recent years by an increasing interest in the manipulation and treatment of “covert processes’’ (Cautela, 1973). Thoughts, sensations,and other private experiences now appear to be as open to functional analysis and modification as overt behavioral events. A serious problem is that of measurement reliability insofar as private events are directly observable only by the person within whose body they occur.
Nonetheless, behavior therapists have found that systematic arrangement of covert events (for example, practiced imaginary sequences) can alter the frequency of both covert and overt behaviors, and that overt events may have reliable effects on covert behaviors (Kazdin, 1977).
Self-management is another major focus of behavior therapy in recent years (Thoresen and Coates, 1976).Clients are taught to make changes in their environments and to practice procedures that lead to modification of their own behavior. Relaxation training, or systematic desensitization (Wolpe, 1973), for example, involves procedures clients are encouraged to practice between therapy sessions in order to acquire the ability to relax “at will.” Self reinforcement, thought stopping, behavioral contracting,and other related procedures also involve attempts on the part of the therapist or educator to teach clients a set of skills leading to self-control and to the eventual
obsolescence of the therapist, except perhaps in an infrequent consulting role.
The literature of Behavior Modification contains examples of application to nearly every form of human activity. Psychotic and neurotic behavior, all kinds of educational objectives, social and sexual behavior, physiological functioning and pain control, organizational behavior, overeating, and addictive behaviors have all been addressed by the practice of behavior therapy. A more thorough perspective on the practice of behavior therapy and applied behavior analysis can be gained through study of the works listed in the bibliography.
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