Applied Behaviour Analysis

Applied Behaviour Analysis as a form of Cognitive Behavioural Analysis

Applied behaviour analysis is used where the current behaviours and actions of the patient are not constructive and are creating real life problems. One example of this is where behaviour is oppositional or aggressive. The client may be aware that others consider their behaviour unreasonable but they might be unsure as to why. Alternatively they might actually like the attention and drama that the attention provides. One example of this might be where the person displays bullying behaviour in order to compensate for their own low self esteem, and is reluctant to let go of behavioural patterns that provide a sense of attention and importance, even though these same behaviours also bring censorship or punishment.

Stages of Applied Behaviour Analysis

As with any analytic process the initial stage is to model what is happening. Initially the referral process (including self referral) may provide clues as to the overall pattern, and this will be strengthened through clinical interview and assessment.

Once a rapport has been build and a case history taken, topic discussion can allow patterns to be identified in terms of events, behaviours, triggers and  outcomes. Beliefs or interpretations are often seen through the identification of linguistic patterns such as the choice of signifiers (choice of descriptive words).

Further analysis may draw on techniques such as those used in CBASP such as significant other analysis, or situational analysis. Active mindfulness analysis and modelling to identify trains of though and perceptual positions may also help. A wide range of analytic and data flow pattern techniques such as those used in SSADM and flow charts can be employed to help the client pictorially represent their train of though, belief and behaviour.

Manipulating and changing behaviour

Once the behaviours and interpretations have been sufficiently mapped and understood, the process of manipulating the behaviour can be begun. Initially it is important for the client to be able to choose new behaviours and role play, using similar but different examples and other means of changing perceptual position may help the client to do this, since it is probably an unfamiliar activity.  A person with oppositional behaviours for example may be completely unused to having empathy for others or their positions in the interaction.

Next the desired outcome needs to be defined, for example improved interaction without conflict.  From that desired outcome and the wider viewpoint and perspective new behaviours are discussed, compared and judged on their merits until a suitable pattern is chosen.

During the pattern and behaviour choice process it is vital that the client has ownership of the new pattern, and contributes at least the majority of the design. It is thus owed and desired by them.

Making the actual change often needs additional support such as assertiveness training, role play, visualisation, or NLP or clinical hypnotherapy. These additional therapy methods can enable the changes that clients want to make, but have barriers stopping them from achieving them.

Reinforcing the change pattern

Social reinforcement is vital and where possible partners or families can be encouraged to verbalise their pleasure and satisfaction at the effects of the changes. In younger clients a token economy or pictorial method of reward can also help. In older clients partners and families may also use a token economy approach in the sense of rewarding the client with “time out”. Often behavioural change is stressful and hard, and having “time out” alone or relaxing can be a good reward by releasing the pressure of change for a period of time. Punishment procedures can also be applied, with agreed consequences of actions being implemented. These should not be too harsh and therefore demotivating, but rather calmly applied “cause and effect” principles. For example if the client is aggressive (cause) their partner might not give them a lift to a social event (effect). This calm and natural approach of indicating that you gain favour and help through being “nice” is also a positive reinforcement when it goes right. Again it is not about indicating the person is being “bad”, but rather that a “bad” behaviour results in people not wanting to cooperate (cause and effect).

Choosing behaviours more widely and learning social choosing skills

The client should eventually be able to learn the skills of choosing behaviours and patterns or procedures in order to get their desired outcomes with minimal or no external support. This is the end goal since effectively this means they have learnt social skills that most people employ almost automatically. They therefore learn to do functional assessments of behaviour and procedures: that is to say identifying the function and purpose of acting in a certain manner. The function and purpose of the old maladaptive behaviour is first identified, then the function and purpose which is wanted is identified, and matching new behaviours or procedures chosen.

Tailored individual support and assistance

Sometimes clients say to me (Stuart), “I do not understand the rules in that sort of social context”. They might be talking about chatting up a potential romantic partner, interviewing for a job or even making “chit chat”. There is often the idea that there is a set of rules somewhere, probably carved into stone tablets, and if only the poor client could find and study them, they would know exactly what to do and how to behave for success.  In applied behaviour analysis it is important to tailor the package of procedures and behaviours to the contexts experienced by the individual client. although there are obviously certain “faux pas” that will cause problems for almost anyone in almost any situation, and there are general “rules of thumb” about how to interact politely, no two situations are quite the same.  Not only that but even in generally typical situations, different people will have different desired outcomes. It is therefore not possible to simply read a book on “how to behave” although some such books might give some useful pointers. It is also important for the individual person to have some element of personality, some element of themselves in the procedure or behaviour, so that the outcome is that they both succeed, and leave the impression of being genuine.  Book based suggestions can often come across as false, fake, and if the book is written for another culture, inappropriate. Some books written for the North American market for example suggest conversation, sales and behavioural patterns that might be too pushy or simply feel out of place in a European environment. Thus cultural appropriateness needs to be considered.

Key words
Applied behaviour analysis, behavioural analysis, cognitive behavioural analysis, life coaching, psychoanalysis, psychology, psychological analysis, psychotherapy, behavioural psychotherapy, behavioural counselling, behavioural psychology, oppositional behaviour, aggressive behaviour, CBASP, active mindfulness, clinical hypnotherapy, anger management, managing behaviours, changing behaviours, modifying behaviours, changing interpretations, psychotherapist, hypnotherapy, psychoanalyst, behavioural analyst, cognitive behavioural analyst, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Stirling, Glasgow, Scotland

Leave a Reply