Academic journal article The Behavior Analyst Today

The Role of Verbal Conditioning in Third Generation Behavior Therapy

Academic journal article The Behavior Analyst Today

The Role of Verbal Conditioning in Third Generation Behavior Therapy

Article excerpt

Kohlenberg, Boiling, Kanter & Parker (2002) and Hayes (2004) have argued that a third generation has occurred in behavior therapy. Hayes (2004) states the movement is characterized by several factors. These factors are, it: (a) is grounded in empirical principles; (b) has a contextual and experiential focus giving priority to function of behavior versus form; (c) emphasizes issues relevant to clinicians and clients; (d) synthesizes previous generations of behavior therapy into the present form; and (e) deals with the questions raised from other traditions. To this end, this article reviews the literature on the role of verbal conditioning in the counseling and consulting process. This literature holds the key to dealing with many challenges that currently face behavior therapists working from a constructional perspective in their attempts to construct a helping process. In a particular, verbal conditioning could hold a central role in reducing unfavorable outcomes in psychotherapy and in answering questions of recovered memories.

Key words: third generation behavior therapy, conditioning, therapeutic relationships

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Behavior therapy is witnessing a small revolution in thinking as the second generation of behavior therapy slowly gives way to the third generation (Kohlenberg, Boiling, Kanter & Parker, 2002; Hayes, 2004) (1). The third generation of behavior therapy is based more on contextual thinking and case conceptualizations. From the behavior analytic tradition, several approaches are central to the third generation of behavior therapy. These are (a) acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999) (b) behavioral activation (BA) (Martell, Addis, & Jacobson, 2001) (c) Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP)(Kohlenberg & Tsai, 1991) and (d) Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy (IBCT) (Jacobson & Christensen, 1996). Most will acknowledge that these new therapies have core differences; however, Hayes (2004) has presented five factors that critically define the third generation of behavior therapy. These are it is (a) grounded in empirical principles; (b) has a contextual and experiential focus, giving priority to function of behavior versus form; (c) emphasizes issues relevant to clinicians and clients; (d) synthesizes previous generations of behavior therapy into the present form; and (5) deals with the questions raised from other traditions. Many factors have given rise to the new wave in behavior therapy (2).

The rise of these therapies may be in part due to the perceived equivalence in psychotherapies (see Gifford, 2002); however, the meta-analysis that originally hinted at equivalence is seriously flawed both statistically and procedurally (see Cautilli & Skinner 2001). Another reason for the third generation might be persistent failures in outpatient cognitive therapies to produce more lasting or intensive clinical gains (Kanter, Cautilli, Busch, & Baruch, 2005). It is more likely that behavior and cognitive therapies representing the two dominant empirical approaches to psychotherapy engage in a continuous dialectical dance, each solving problems, creating models, and in turn offering innovations. As time goes on, they integrate, depart, challenge each other's models of phenomena, answer new questions, and reintegrate. Third generation behavior therapy is beginning to receive growing empirical support for both its models of psychopathology and its technologies for treatment (see Hayes, Masuda, Bissett, Luoma, & Guerrero, 2004).

Behavior therapy is a dynamic and creative process. Each client presents a new challenge because clients differ in genetics, behavioral histories, current life situations, desires, goals, values, and needs. Each relationship between therapist and client calls for the use of flexible skills to create the helping relationship (Williams, 2002). Creation of or the building of skills and not simply the elimination of behavior problems is the central core value of behavior therapy (Goldiamond, 1974). …

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