Behavioural Therapy is effective for individuals who require treatment for some sort of behaviour change, such as addictions, phobias and anxiety disorders. Based on the principle that behaviour is learnt, and can therefore be unlearnt, or reconditioned, Behavioural Theraphy concentrates on the present without focusing on the past to find a reason for the behaviour.
The most famous examples of conditioning are those of Ivan Pavlov and B.F Skinner.
An experiment conducted by Pavlov demonstrated how ringing a bell close to dinnertime caused dogs to associate the ringing of the bell with the expectation of food, which made them salivate even if no food appeared. The importance of this experiment is that the coniditoned response (the dogs salivating) decreased in intensity the more times the conditioned stimulus (ringing the bell) occurred without the appearance of food.
A similar technique can be used to treat phobias, for example, where an individual can gradually be exposed to the stimuli that triggers the phobia, and recondition their behavioural response to it (i.e reduce their fear of the phobia in question)
B.F Skinner conducted an experiment that associated reconditioning with rewards. The experiment involved feeding a rat via an automatic dispenser until the rat learnt to associate the noise of the dispenser with the arrival of food. Once the rat had learnt this behaviour, a lever in the wall was raised so that when the rat touched it accidentally with its paw, the food was dispensed. The rat then learnt to associate the lever with the arrival of food and continually pressed it.
A similar technique can be applied to individuals by reinforcing desired behaviour, or not reinforcing undesired behaviour.
The behavioural approach came into conflict with the cognitive approach at the time, which focused on identifying and replacing distorted thoughts and beliefs. However, during the 1970's behavioural techniques and cognitive techniques joined forces to create Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.