It is common for many people struggling with substance abuse to also have self-destructive thought processes, negative behavioral patterns, and although they often do not recognize these thoughts as being unhealthy or negative, they can lead to harmful effects. Learning how to recognize and address these patterns plays a crucial role in recovering from addiction. According to famous Psychologist B.F Skinner, behavioral modification seeks to change or shape behavior through a set of stimuli and response actions. Behavioral conditioning works under the premise that the best way to understand a person’s behavior is to look at the reason for action and the consequences of said action.
Research published by the National Institutes of Health shows that cognitive behavioral therapy is a highly effective way to treat addiction and dysfunctional addictive behaviors. The therapy focuses on correcting dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors by replacing them with healthy, positive habits and thought processes.
Research suggests that behavior which is reinforced tends to be repeated (i.e. strengthened); behavior which is not reinforced tends to die out-or be extinguished (i.e. weakened). it means roughly changing of behavior by the use of reinforcement which is given after the desired response. Skinner identified three types of responses that can follow behavior. A further important contribution proven by Skinner is the notion of behaviour shaping through successive approximation. Skinner argues that the principles of operant conditioning can be used to produce extremely complex behaviour if rewards and punishments are delivered in such a way as to encourage move an organism closer and closer to the desired behaviour each time.
Cognitive behavioral therapy sessions allow a therapist to work with a recovering person individually to identify harmful or dysfunctional thought patterns and seek to implement healthier attitudes and beliefs.
A therapist will work with a recovering person to help them recognize the thought patterns that trigger their own addictive behaviors. Therapy also works to introduce healthier new coping skills for dealing with life’s stresses and challenges without the need for drugs or alcohol.
Substance abuse and addiction is commonly linked to mental health disorders. In some people, the substance abuse may have been triggered by an untreated mental illness, such as trying to elevate their mood with drugs or alcohol when symptoms of anxiety or depression are evident. A person struggling with two or more co-existing disorders has a dual diagnosis, which requires specific behavioral therapy to address both conditions simultaneously.
A simple way to shape behavior is to provide feedback on learner performance, e.g. compliments, approval, encouragement, and affirmation. A variable-ratio produces the highest response rate for patients in recovery learning to change negative behaviors and focus on positive behaviors that encourage recovery. This can be focused on in treatment where initially reinforcement (e.g. praise) occurs at frequent intervals, and as the performance improves reinforcement occurs less frequently, until eventually only exceptional outcomes are reinforced.
In order to achieve a successful recovery from addiction, it is important to include behavioral therapy treatments in combination with other rehab treatments.
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