What is Behavioral Therapy?

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Behavioral Therapy

A child’s environment influences the way they behave. Often, problematic and unhealthy behaviors are unintentionally rewarded. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps parents gain the skills and knowledge to help redirect unwanted behaviors. Behavior therapies can be applied to a wide range of psychological symptoms among adolescents and children.

Although behavioral therapies can vary substantially from disorder to disorder, a common thread is that behavioral therapists encourage children and adolescents to try new behaviors, reward desired behaviors, and to allow unwanted behaviors to “extinguish” (that is, ignore unwanted behaviors).

In behavior therapy, parents and children learn to promote desirable behaviors and reduce unwanted behaviors. 

One common trap that families fall into is unintentionally rewarding the wrong behavior. For example, take the teen who has not finished his homework, but really wants to take the car. Despite initial objections, the teen persists, and becomes angry, irritable, and disobedient towards his parents. Following a tantrum, the parents decide they cannot take the hassle anymore and allow him to borrow the car. In this way, the parents unintentionally reward, or reinforce, the teen’s oppositional behavior. The best way to handle these situations is to planfully ignore acting out behavior and to reinforce wanted behavior (homework attempts) as much as possible. Behavioral therapists seek to understand such links between behaviors, rewards, and learning, and to help youth and parents shape their own behaviors to meet individual and family goals.

Behavioral Parent Training
Behavioral parent training was developed to teach parents how to reinforce desirable behaviors in their children, discourage unwanted behaviors, and improve parent-child interactions. In this form of therapy, the parents play a significant role in treating their children’s behavior problems. During the therapy sessions, parents learn how to carefully observe their children’s behaviors at home and are taught skills to reward their children’s positive behaviors by using praise, positive attention, and rewards. They are also taught to use rule-setting, time-out, and ignoring to discourage bad behaviors.

Blog Post By:

Sarah Irvine, LCSW

Oak Tree Developmental Center

Attributed Source(s):


Steven W. Evans, Julie Sarno Owens, & Nora Bunford (2013). Evidence-Based Psychosocial Treatments for Children and Adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology Vol. 43 Issue 4, 527-551. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2013.850700

Charmaine K. Higa-McMillan, Sarah E. Francis, Leslie Rith-Najarian, & Bruce F. Chopita (2016). Evidence Base Update: 50 Years of Research on Treatment for Child and Adolescent Anxiety, Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 45:2, 91-113, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2015.1046177

How An Occupational Therapist Can Help With Sensory Processing Disorder

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What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. The sensory system is comprised of our sense of smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing. In addition we have two more "unknown senses". These are our sense of proprioception and vestibular sense. Proprioception and vestibular, which are a part of the sensory system, are often referred to as the “unknown senses”. The proprioceptive sense helps your body understand where it is in space, as well as how much force is needed to move your body within your environment. The vestibular sense refers to your body’s ability to understand how fast it is moving and helps to maintain balance. SPD can cause a person to be either over responsive or under responsive to sensory stimuli.

Sensory Diet For SPD

A sensory diet can be useful to help a child with SPD stay in a regulated state throughout the day, as well as cope when they become dysregulated. A child who is over responsive to touch may find certain clothing fabrics to be uncomfortable. A child who is sensitive to noises may be seen to cover their ears to noises that seem novel to others. Those with food aversions may be over responsive to taste or smell. Those who are under responsive to proprioceptive input may enjoy crashing or falling. Finally, those with difficulty regulating vestibular input may be seen to have “on the go” tendencies, or prefer to not move very much at all.

OT Support For SPD Parents

To accommodate SPD, an occupational therapist will work alongside parents and children to develop a tailored sensory diet to each child’s specific needs. No two children have the same sensory needs; therefore, no two sensory diets will look the same.

Blog Post By: Melissa Melnick, MOT, OTR/L

Attributed Resource: Super Duper Publications: Using a “Sensory Diet” with Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) by Amber Swearingen, MOT, OTR/L

.Please watch the insight video below, to experience a child's view of sensory processing disorder: