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What Is Behavior Therapy?

Updated on May 24, 2014

Types of Behavior Therapies

There are several behavior therapies based on classical conditioning. They include systematic desensitization, flooding, exposure and response prevention, and aversion therapy. I found flooding to be the most intriguing therapy.

Flooding is “used to treat phobias by exposing clients to the feared object or event [or asking them to imagine it vividly] for an extended period until their anxiety decreases” (Wood, Wood, & Boyd 404).

An Example

This behavior therapy reminded me of an interesting program I watched on TV not too long ago. In the program there was a woman who had ichthyophobia, a fear of fish.

The woman claimed the reason she had such an extreme fear of fish was due to the fact that fish "do not blink." The mere sight of a live fish would cause her to run away screaming.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy Cycle
Dialectical Behavior Therapy Cycle | Source


So the goal of this show was to cure this woman of her ichthyophobia by having her sit in a room with an aquarium for an extended period of time.

The aquarium contained a single goldfish and once the women’s anxiety began to decrease the aquarium was moved closer to her.

Goldfish | Source


By the show’s end the woman no longer had a fear of fish and was able to sit relaxed by the goldfish in the aquarium.

Behavior therapies do not take as long to produce results as some other therapies.

I think that behavior therapies based on classical conditioning are the usually the best treatment for those people who want to overcome their fears/phobias and bad habits.

I was unaware that so many phobias in existed. Fortunately the majority of such phobias can be treated.

Classical learning or behavior modification can be used to treat specific and social phobias.

And for those who experience agoraphobia, antidepressants can be used to help individuals overcome their fears.


  • Wood, S., Wood, E., Boyd, D. (2002). Mastering the World of Psychology. New Jersey: Pearson.


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