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Behavioral Therapy


Cognitive behavioral therapy, often referred to simply as „behavioral therapy“, is a scientifically acknowledged psychotherapy procedure for mental disorders. During therapy behaviors and thinking patterns related to the mental disorder are identified and modified. 


Behavioral therapy is characterized by the following principles according to Margraf (2009):

Principle 1: Behavioral therapy is based on empirical psychology

Behavioral therapy specifies its theoretical concepts and therapeutic methods to evaluate them empirically. This means, that the methods of behavioral therapy have been scientifically proven as effective. 

Principle 2: Behavioral therapy is problem oriented.

Behavioral therapy targets currently existing problems. Dysfunctional behaviors and thoughts are modified in order to improve these problems. A further goal is to increase the client’s problem solving capabilities.


Principle 3: Behavioral therapy recognizes predisposing, precipitating and maintaining factors for the problems.

In the course of behavioral therapy predisposing, precipitating and maintaining factors for the problems are taken into account. Since maintaining factors are easier to modify, they are the focus of the therapy.  

Principle 4: Behavioral therapy is goal oriented.

Both the therapist and the client determine the therapy goals before treatment. This is done to prevent client and therapist having different goals or pursuing unrealistic goals.

Principle 5: Behavioral therapy is action oriented.

Client’s active participation is crucial for the effectiveness of behavioral therapy. In behavioral therapy, discussion and problem reflection is only one part of therapy, the more important part is the client’s active participation in training new behaviors.

Principle 6: Behavioral therapy is not limited to the therapeutic sessions.

Applying the strategies learnt during therapy between the therapy sessions is necessary to make improvements in daily life   
Principle 7: Behavioral therapy is transparent

During behavioral therapy, the individual explanatory model for the current disorder and the therapy rationale can be freely discussed between the client and the therapist at any time.

Principle 8: Behavior therapy should be „help to self-help“

During behavioral therapy, clients should acquire skills to be able to solve problems on their own. Therefore, the client’s self-help potential should be reinforced: in the medium term clients should be able to cope with new problems and to prevent relapses without therapeutic help.

Principle 9: Behavior therapy is under constant development

Since the theoretical foundations and treatment methods of behavioral therapy are evaluated empirically, behavioral therapy is under constant differentiation and development.


Margraf, J. (2009). Hintergründe und Entwicklung. In: J. Margraf & S. Schneider (Hrsg.), Lehrbuch der Verhaltenstherapie (3. Aufl., S. 3-45). Heidelberg: Springer.

  1. Departement of Psychology
  2. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy