Behavior Therapy

There are a variety of theories on the best way to inspire a person to change their behavior. Some believe that you should concentrate on the thoughts surrounding the actions. Behavioral therapists assert that you should replace poor behaviors with good behaviors. When you focus on behaviors before thought patterns, less time is spent on analysis. More time is spent on results.

The underlying principle is that the emotional hurdles that affect behavior are learned. This form of therapy can help people handle difficult situations and emotions in a productive way. It can motivate those with cerebral palsy to understand their limitations and push past them.

What is behavior therapy?

Behavior therapy is a systematic approach to changing people’s actions. The ultimate goal is for them to lead better lives. Instead of exploring the past in great detail, a therapist concentrates on the problem areas that prevent a person from making natural progress in his or her life. For example, if a child becomes angry because he or she is constantly teased, the therapist may suggest different activities the child can do to alleviate the frustration.

When children develop coping mechanisms (whether good or bad), they can be difficult to reverse. Addressing the negative mechanisms as early as possible can have a profound effect on their lives. It can be used on practically any poor behavior, from the tiny to the extreme. It’s incredibly flexible and designed to tackle the issue directly. Once the child begins to implement the technique, he or she may start to feel fewer negative emotions, such as loneliness, sadness or inferiority. It can improve social skills, academic deficiencies and attention struggles.

What are the benefits of behavioral therapy?

A number of concrete benefits can come from this therapy. It’s important to note that each child functions at his or her own pace when it comes to improvements.

Finishing Tasks: Behavioral therapy can give children with cerebral palsy the mental fortitude to push through difficult or boring tasks.

Delayed Gratification: Many techniques involve distracting oneself from immediate pleasure. By teaching a child to wait, the therapy can help them to develop patience and a sense of responsibility.

Accepting Themselves: Frustrations are ultimately born without feelings of helplessness. Behavioral therapy forces the child to confront reality and make peace with it.

Academic Success: Concentrating is difficult for many, but therapy can give people with cerebral palsy time-management skills that work.

Anxiety Reduction: Those who feel nervous about the future can utilize “tricks,” such as mindfulness training, physical activity or journaling to allay fears.

Improved Focus: Children with cerebral palsy may lack drive because they lack perspective. Therapy gives them a way to connect with the bigger picture, so they can develop long-term goals.

Better Interactions: Behavioral therapy encourages children to treat others with kindness and respect, which can  increase the chance of long-lasting friendships.

Resisting Temptation: Much the same way as delayed gratification teaches patience, therapy can teach children how to overcome desire and how to avoid situations where they will be tempted.

Overcoming Trauma: When a child is exposed to early trauma, he or she may process it in a variety of ways. Therapy can both discover which behaviors stem from the trauma and then set goals for correcting that behavior.

Lessening or Curing Depression: Children with cerebral palsy who experience signs of depression will discover ways to be more optimistic.

Resolving Conflict: The sooner children learn to deal with conflict, the more likely they’ll excel later in life.

Who benefits from behavioral therapy?

Parents

A diagnosis of cerebral palsy can affect more people than just the child. While everyone is trying to cope with the diagnosis, therapy can be helpful for relieving the stress that comes with everyday life. When routines are changed, expectations are raised, and financial costs rise, there may be tension. This is a way to take positive action and a step that can bind a family back together in mutual understanding and love.

Children

When infants are growing up, they experience a wide range of emotions under the best of circumstances. However, when a child has cerebral palsy, he or she is typically focused on what he can’t do rather than what he can. Therapy is used as a means of balancing out a child’s frustrations with awareness.

Children’s moods and attitudes are influenced by the people they have around them. Sheltering them will not help; they must learn how to deal with challenges both in and outside of their home. When they’re having trouble interacting with adults or peers, it could be the start of a lifetime of isolation. The sooner intervention occurs, the more likely it is to be of lasting value.

Behavioral therapy may be the answer to focusing their energies on tasks that are productive and decreasing their preoccupation with how they’re different. By raising the self-esteem in a realistic way, therapy teaches children to seek out settings where they’re more likely to grow and thrive. This is especially true if the child is having trouble communicating. The feelings they bottle up can eventually drive them to extreme behaviors. They must learn how to express themselves in a healthy way before it gets to a breaking point.

It is well documented that children who can accomplish these goals tend to live fuller, happier and longer lives. Behavioral therapy can institute normal routines, including regular hygiene, chores and learning. About 66 percent of children who have cerebral palsy live with cognitive deficiencies, so the benefits of this therapy can be life-changing in terms of better communication. Through careful assessment and trial and error, therapy can find ways for children to conquer fear.

Behavioral therapy is a means of preparing children to enter their adult years without anxiety. The prospect of independence can frighten even the most capable young people. These techniques can empower children to believe they have bright futures and to know they have the skills to turn dreams into reality. These benefits can be achieved through hard work, a good support system and the right therapist.

Caregivers

Caregivers get far more insight into a child’s mind after the child undergoes therapy. The sessions give caregivers a means to not only recognize destructive actions, but also instructions on how to handle them. For the most part, poor behaviors are obvious, even when a caregiver is not certain of why they’re happening. By understanding the underlying factors that therapy may reveal, caregivers can get a better handle on the situation. This can make both child and caregiver feel safer and more comfortable with each other. It helps remove the triggers, support the child, and help prevent tantrums.

Sometimes the therapist will work out a management plan, which is comprehensive for both the child and the adults. It maps out rewards, milestones and setbacks. It gives the child a chance to see their progress so they can celebrate their achievements and work toward overcoming their failures.

Plans may include turning chores or academic tasks into a game or exposing a child to a particular fear to desensitize them to it. When it comes to physical impairments, a therapist may recommend buying a Dynavox, so the child can better communicate. Or they may suggest using special equipment to make games more evenly matched between the child and their peers (or even adults).

Caregivers can start implementing these techniques to strengthen a child’s sense of himself or herself. When children are happy, they tend to grow into contributing members of society. The ripple effects of behavioral therapy can stretch further than the home, school or even the town where the child grows up.

When should behavioral therapy be considered?

All children go through difficult times, and it doesn’t mean they need therapy. However, when the quality of life is diminishing for the child or for the people in the child’s life, then it may be time to go through an initial screening. Common issues may include a lack of bonding with other members of the family, feelings of isolation or general inadequacy, or the child’s disrupting their peers when they’re attempting to learn or receive attention. Any type of physical aggression such as biting, kicking or pinching may also be helped with therapy.

What are the signs to look for?

Aggression: Excessive anger and aggression are two major signs that a child needs some type of professional intervention. Without coping mechanisms, the rage is not likely to resolve on its own.

Anti-social behavior: Children who routinely isolate themselves from affection or interaction may need help in relating to and empathizing with other people in their lives.

Anxiety: For those with a nervous affect, therapy can help replace obsessive thoughts with hope or affirmations about their abilities.

Appetite or sleep changes: Major disruptions in these natural patterns are often indicative of how a child is truly feeling.

Depression: Signs of depression can be difficult to spot because they can range from lethargy to aggression. Any symptoms that may suggest depression should be addressed if they have persisted for weeks.

Distress: Irritability, frustration or feelings of helplessness can all be indicators that a child could use help in coping with these confusing and debilitating emotions.

Peer trouble: If a child is being consistently rejected by their peers, they may need some help in understanding why it’s happening or in changing how they interact with potential playmates. 

Trouble in school: If a child is not living up to their potential academically, behavioral therapy may be able to turn the tides toward better grades.

Whining: While whining is normal in children, an excessive amount may signify a deeper problem.

Who provides therapy?

There are strict guidelines as to who can perform this type of therapy:

  1. Licensed counselors: Counselors are generally approached when there is a defined problem (e.g., the child hits their peers when in school). They’re trained to assess the behavior and then develop a form of treatment based on the child’s needs, wants and best interests.
  2. MFTs: A marriage and family therapist is trained to understand relationship dynamics. They may be better suited for administering behavioral therapy when there are general problems with empathy or making friends.
  3. Psychotherapists: It’s best to see a psychotherapist when underlying issues exist, such as deep emotional trauma. The events of the past can severely impact the behaviors of today. While the basic principles are still the same in terms of changing behavior to change thoughts, psychotherapists are also attempting to tackle and resolve the personal issues that influence the problem behaviors. They’re focused more on observation and insight in addition to developing a schedule of possible changes for the child.
  1. Psychiatrists: Typically, psychiatrists will be able to prescribe medication that may facilitate the child’s path toward wellness. They may also assist with psychotherapy as well.

Those trained in this school of thought may use everything from role-playing to conditioning to achieve goals. The therapy can be done over the phone, in person or online. The amount of time each child will spend is entirely dependent on the situation and a function of how long it takes for a child to become comfortable with their therapist.

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