Behavioral therapy or behavioral modification as it is also called has been touted by many professionals as the cure-all for most self-destructive behaviors. It is used primarily by therapists to change behaviors that are harmful to the individual client, and replace them with others generally considered more acceptable. But there are many who question its use in all circumstances, questioning further whether it works for all client populations as often advertised.
For instance Tolin (2009) in his study on the effectiveness of behavior therapy questions whether it is actually more effective than other therapies and in what instances. After serious study Tolin concludes “The superiority of CBT over alternative therapies was [in his study] evident only among patients with anxiety or depressive disorders.” (p 710) However the results dispute claims that all treatments for anxiety and depression are equal and argues that CBT “should be considered a first primary treatment method. (710)

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The Social Anxiety Institute (2015) disagrees, saying that if behavioral therapy and changing behaviors worked, “we would all have overcome it long ago.”(para 1) The problem as they see it is that clients do well while I group working slowly through and roll playing in events, but once therapy is over the effects inevitably disappear. While cognitive therapy can “change our beliefs and make them more rational, requiring a combination of cognitive and behavior [which they see as two separate therapies] to instill the learned behavior and must be tested outside of the group in real life situations.

Lastly, and moving on to an often frightening aspect of mental disorder, an exhaustive study by Jones, Hacker, Cormac, Meaden & Irving found “no clear and convincing advantage for cognitive behavioral therapy over other – and sometime much less sophisticated – therapies for people with schizophrenia.” (Conclusion)

  • Jones, C., Hacker, D, Cormac, I., Meaden, A & Irving, C.B.. Cognitive behaviour therapy versus other psychosocial treatments for schizophrenia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Apr 18;4:CD008712.doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008712.pub2.Retrieved from:
  • Social Anxiety Institute (2015) Why behavioral therapy alone does not work for social anxiety.Retrieved from:
  • Tolin, D.F. (2010) Is cognitive–behavioral therapy more effective than other therapies? Clinical Psychology Review, Vol 10, p 710-720