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History of Behavior Therapy: Five Key Concepts

The blossoming of behavior therapy took place in the 1950s and 1960s, with researchers such as Hans Eysenek, Cyril Franks, Arnold Lazarus, Isaac Marks, S. Rachman, G. Terence Wilson, and Joseph Wolpe contributing to its growth (Antony & Roemer, 2003, p. 184). The realm of psychotherapy was ready for the advent of behavior therapy because of two factors that had prepared the way: the directive nature of behavior therapy and the popularity of learning theory as a basis for clinical phenomena, as in Mowrer's two-factor model as an explanation for phobias as a classical conditioning experience (Antony & Roemer, 2003, p. 184). Referred to in the 1960s as "behavior modification, behavior therapy focused on context and situational factors as determiners of an individual's behavior (Antony & Roemer, 2003, p. 185).

Variations on behavioral therapy have been developed. These include such approaches as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and rational emotive therapy (Harrington & Pickles, 2009, p. 315). Cognitive behavioral therapy is the best known of these, and it focuses primarily on effecting a change in thoughts and behavior; it is goal-oriented and based on clarity of theory and practice that is achieved through collaboration (Harrington & Pickles, 2009, p. 322). Dialectical behavioral therapy urges the client to live more in the moment, while acceptance and commitment theory and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy both use mindfulness techniques, which originate from Zen Buddhism and promote "paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgementally, to the unfolding of experience moment by moment" (Harrington & Pickles, 2009, pp. 316, 319).

One of the major contributors to behavior theory is Harvard University's B.F. Skinner for his work on behavior modification. Skinner is quoted as saying, ...

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