5 Benefits of Professional Behavioral Therapy for Children
Signs of developmental delays manifest during childhood and are a common hurdle for many families. Although behavior disorders and unique learning needs to impact many parts of your child and family’s daily life, options are available to help everyone adjust, manage and thrive through childhood and into adulthood.
Behavior therapy is a successful treatment option, whether used alone or alongside medication and other medical care.
What Is Behavior Therapy?
Behavior therapy is an action-based approach to therapy stemming from the idea that all children learn from their environment. Behavior therapists work together with the child’s parents, caretakers, and other relevant adults to create a plan of action that rewards positive, beneficial behavior while discouraging negative or harmful behavior.
Minimizing bad behavior isn’t about punishment, but the lack of reward. The action, like a pre-bedtime tantrum, is ignored while going to bed without a struggle is rewarded. A behavior therapist will also work with you to identify and eliminate possible triggers of negative behavior.
Behavior therapy may be a form of symptoms management or treatment for conditions like:
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Panic disorders
- Disruptive behavior disorders
Many parts of behavior therapy incorporate both the child and the adults in their life, as adults are largely responsible for sticking to action plans, noting patterns, and helping the child integrate the adjustments into their life.
Common types of childhood and pediatric behavior therapy include:
- Applied behavior analysis (ABA): ABA is often the preferred therapy for children with behavioral disorders, especially for autism spectrum disorders, anxiety, and panic disorders, extreme phobias, and anger management difficulties. The benefits of ABA therapy come from its use of operant conditioning methods to address negative behavior and reshape those moments by working on their cause and the child’s reaction. ABA typically requires ongoing evaluation, and adult training is essential to its success.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT uses a cognitive approach to behavioral therapy, identifying problematic behaviors and patterns and replacing negative thought patterns with positive ones. CBT is a structured approach, typically involving an element of talk therapy alongside other treatment methods.
- Cognitive behavioral play therapy: Cognitive behavioral play therapy is specifically meant for children who may be too young or otherwise unable to communicate honestly or clearly. It uses play intervention to assess and manage behavioral conditions with a combination of roleplay scenes to help a child act out or demonstrate their life and struggles and more unstructured play for therapist observation. It balances activity and talk, depending on your child’s unique needs.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT): DBT uses behavioral and cognitive approaches to teach your child how and why they feel the emotions they feel and provides a foundation for managing stressors and negative feelings. It involves some elements of CBT with a strong focus on practicing mindfulness and emotional balance.
- Exposure or desensitization therapy: Exposure and desensitization therapy are reserved for extreme situational fears, objects, or phobias to help your child face these triggers in a controlled environment to learn healthy, sustainable coping mechanisms.
Behavior therapy might be used alone, as a pre-treatment before starting medication, or alongside a medication plan, depending on your therapist and doctor’s recommendations. Behavioral therapy is often used as a long-form tool, but specific recommended lengths may vary, depending on your child’s assessment. Some behavioral therapy programs offer in-home services for optimal comfort and convenience.
5 Benefits of Professional Behavioral Therapy
Professional kids’ in-home behavioral therapy or scheduled visits to a professional’s office can transform your child and family’s lives by equipping you with lasting coping mechanisms and a strong foundation for adulthood.
1. Improves Social Skills
Behavior therapy improves a child’s social skills by giving them the tools they need to better understand emotions, gestures, and facial expressions, leading to better listening skills and manners in social settings. These skills can help your child feel more confident in their social skills and strengthen their interpersonal relationships for a fuller life.
2. Enhances Independent Living Skills
Behavior therapy programs can improve a child’s independent living skills, equipping them with the skills to manage daily responsibilities, like using the bathroom, navigating society, and sleeping through the night. By taking control of their own lives, your child can avoid the pitfalls of learned helplessness and learn to advocate for their own needs, strengthening their self-esteem by extension.
3. Provides Tools for Parents to Best Support Their Children
The right behavior therapy program gives adults a strong framework to incorporate into a child’s daily life at home and school. While a trusting relationship between the child and therapist is essential, families are encouraged to practice these therapeutic skills outside of the therapy session for maximum effect.
This involvement empowers parents to take an active role in their child’s well-being and victories, shifting them from the role of caretaker to cheerleader.
4. Creates a Therapy Plan on an Individualized Basis
Behavior therapy is never one-size-fits-all. After a thorough assessment and history evaluation, your child’s therapist will customize their treatment method to fit their specific needs and areas of concern. Every child learns differently and has different behavioral triggers, so a personalized approach is the only way to find true success.
5. Increases Language and Communication Skills
With improved social skills, self-esteem, and self-care techniques, your child may see improved focus and attention to foster healthy, nondisruptive social engagement. This will help develop their language and communication skills and help them use and understand verbal and nonverbal cues to express themselves in nuanced situations, including sarcasm and unspoken social implications.
Is ABA Therapy Right for Your Child?
The board-certified specialists at Orlando Children’s Therapy, a part of the family of companies here at Kids SPOT, are here to help you and your child thrive with our play-based approach to ABA therapy. Our customized, family-centric model empowers your family to be active participants in the same journey, helping your child achieve sustainable independence and coping skills.
Contact us today to learn if ABA is right for your child and explore our available options.