Behavior therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing undesirable behaviors. Behavior therapy involves identifying objectionable, maladaptive behaviors and replacing them with socially desirable, healthier and adaptive type of behaviors
Behavior analysis was originally described by B.F. Skinner in the 1930's. You may have learned about Skinner and "operant conditioning" when you studied science in school. The principles and methods of behavior analysis have been applied effectively in many circumstances to develop a wide range of skills in learners with and without disabilities.
What is Applied Behavior Analysis?
Behavior analysis is a scientific approach to understand behavior and how it is affected by the environment. "Behavior" refers to all kinds of actions and skills (not just misbehavior) and "environment" includes all sorts of physical and social events that might change or be changed by one's behavior. The science of behavior analysis focuses on principles (that is, general laws) about how behavior works, or how learning takes place. For example, one principle of behavior analysis is positive reinforcement. When a behavior is followed by something that is valued (a "reward"), that behavior is likely to be repeated. Through decades of research, the field of behavior analysis has developed many techniques for increasing useful behaviors and reducing those that may be harmful or that interfere with learning. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the use of those techniques and principles to address socially important problems, and to bring about meaningful behavior change.
Who Can Benefit from ABA?
ABA methods have been used successfully with many kinds of learners of all ages, with and without disabilities, in many different settings. In the early 1960s, behavior analysts began working with young children with autism and related disorders. Those pioneers used techniques in which adults directed most of the instruction, as well as some in which children took the lead. Since that time, a wide variety of ABA techniques have been developed for building useful skills in learners with autism of all ages. Those techniques are used in both structured situations (such as formal instruction in classrooms) and in more "natural" everyday situations (such as during play or mealtime at home), and in 1-to-1 as well as group instruction. They are used to develop basic skills like looking, listening and imitating, as well as complex skills like reading, conversing, and taking the perspective of others.
The use of ABA principles and techniques to help persons with autism to live happily and productively has expanded rapidly in recent years. Today, ABA is widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment for autism. It has been endorsed by a number of state and federal agencies, including the US Surgeon General and the New York State Department of Health.