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Behaviral Tools


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Behavioral tools are used by human service workers to assist individuals in developing, organizing, and maintaining changes to improve a quality of life. There are approaches service workers may find helpful when working with various clients and working in different situations. To focus on creating healthy behaviors, this report on behavioral tools looks at effective methods of implementing change through the following: client centered approaches, grounding techniques, and operant conditioning through positive and negative reinforcements. The report will also assist human service workers identify some situations that the stated approaches may be used for.
Client Centered Approach The client centered approach is a behavioral tool that human service professionals use in counseling or psychotherapy. Developed in the 1930s by American psychologist Carl Rogers (Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, 2012), client centered therapy focuses on human strengths rather than human deficiencies. The client centered approach is non-directive and creates behavioral change by focusing on personal growth and self-actualization. It was Roger’s belief that humans who move toward self-actualization are more inclined to have concern for others and behave in genuine, trustworthy, and constructive ways. Rogers believed the way to accomplish this was to place the client in control. To establish client control, the therapist does not direct the client, does not pass judgments on the client’s feelings, and does not offer suggestions or solutions (CRC Health Group, 2011). The benefits of client centered therapy are positioned on the ability of the therapist to establish and maintain an open and non-judgmental environment in which the client plays an active role in his or her recovery. Client centered therapy is effective because it gives the client the opportunity to take responsibility for discovering things about him or herself and the decisions he or she has made, which allows the greatest growth and progress. Client centered therapy is effective for depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, substance abuse, personality disorders, panic disorders, stress, eating disorders, and phobias (CRC Health Group, 2011). The expected results of the client centered approach include: improved self-esteem, greater ability to trust oneself, and decreased feelings of anxiety or panic. Healthier relationships, depression recovery, and decreased feelings of stress are also results that contribute a healthy change.
Grounding Techniques Another behavioral tool that proves effective in CBT is grounding techniques. Grounding is “simply a type of tool within the CBT framework used to help an individual learn to ‘ground’ himself and in doing so helping the client to be better able to keep himself in the present” (Le Page, 2010). Grounding keeps the mind busy taking it away from troubling events and helps the client to refocus on the ‘here and now’. Grounding techniques include the following activities: meditation, relaxation techniques (such as yoga and deep breathing), using a stress ball, mental imagery, counting, and positive reassurance. Grounding can be anything meant to be a resolution for a temporary imbalance or stressful situation (Stout, 2008). Everyone can use grounding techniques. When one relaxes, closes his or her eyes, and takes a deep breath, they are using the grounding technique. Grounding is also effective as it can be performed anywhere and at any time (Wexel, 2011). Therapists sometimes experience feelings from sessions with clients which interfere with his or her efforts in helping the client effectively. Grounding has been proven to be very effective in transference issues. Because of this, the technique is effective tool for both therapists and clients.

Behavior Modification Techniques Operant conditioning through positive and negative reinforcement is another tool used in behavior modification. Positive reinforcement increases the chance that behavior will recur, where negative reinforcement decreases the chance that the behavior will not occur again. The principle of operant conditioning and reinforcement is to repeat a response to a given stimulus. For the behavior modification to be successful, it is important to select a reinforcement that will strengthen the desired behavior (Rasnake, 1993). Positive and negative reinforcement can be used in simple cases as well as the more challenging cases to modify a behavior. Human service workers and parents can use operant conditioning to change the way a child acts in the classroom. If a child continues to interrupt the classroom environment, negative reinforcement such as placing the child by his or herself instead of with friends can be used to deter the behavior. Likewise, if the desired behavior is acknowledged or rewarded, the good behavior will likely continue. This behavioral modification technique also can be used with someone looking to overcome substance abuse. The individual should have a stimulus that he or she can focus on to make the change. If one is trying to overcome substance abuse to gain custody of his or her children for example, positive reinforcement can be used when the individual reaches certain desirable goals. Negative reinforcement, such as losing the opportunity to see the children if there is a slip on recovery can give that person the incentive to quit the negative behavior and work toward bettering his or her life. The importance of behavioral tools is to help create healthy behaviors in individuals. Human service workers understand such behaviors play a role in emotional and physical well-being, and work with clients to help refocus cognitive behaviors to more appropriate ideals. Techniques such as client centered approaches, grounding techniques, and operant conditioning of positive and negative reinforcement, are behavioral tools that many human service workers can learn from and implement when appropriate. Through these techniques that provide self-actualization, rebalancing of the mind, and knowledge of appropriate behaviors, it is possible for individual change and a newly created emotional and physical well-being.

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