What's the Job Description of a Behavior Therapist?

Behavior therapists work in a variety of one-on-one and group settings, diagnosing mental disorders and providing individuals with therapeutic methodologies to cope with personal issues. Read on for a more thorough job description and to learn about various types of behavior therapy. Schools offering Applied Behavioral Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description of a Behavioral Therapist

As a behavior therapist, you'll help patients with mental disorders ranging from depression and alcoholism to schizophrenia and autism. You'll work with patients to understand the difficulties, debilitating behaviors, and negative thought patterns they want to change. The main goal of behavior therapy is to diminish unhealthy thoughts and behaviors by equipping patients with the mental tools to make better choices. You can utilize these tools to help patients to more effectively deal with challenges in their daily lives, including phobias, anxiety, and stress. You'll also devise problem-solving methods, like psychotherapy, counseling, and homework assignments, to improve patients' quality of life.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Education Requirement Depending on level, anything ranging from a high school diploma to a master's degree may be required
Licensure State licensure required from those in a clinical setting
Similar Occupations Child, family and school social workers; social and human service assistants
Key Skills Compassion, communications skills, active-listening skills, patience, interpersonal skills

Types of Therapy

Although the over-reaching goals of all behavioral therapists are the same - to provide care for their patients and facilitate personal growth in coping with unhealthy habits - therapists might choose to specialize in certain demographics or in particular therapeutic tools. For instance, one might choose to focus on:

Cognitive-Behavior Therapy

Cognitive-behavior therapy teaches people to change their thinking and responses even if their situations don't change. Cognitive behavior therapy focuses on the theory that an individual's thoughts can create specific emotions and reactions to situations. You can employ a variety of treatment methods, such as asking patients to think differently or challenge their unhealthy thoughts. In addition, you'll encourage your patients to tell you their wants and hypothesize their problems in achieving these goals. Then, you'll work to change patients' mindset with one-on-one consultations and homework assignments. This type of therapy is short-term; you may only see your patients for a few sessions.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

As a dialectical behavior therapist, you'll help patients with severe behavioral issues, including borderline personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, or self-harming behaviors. Dialectical behavior therapy is a form of cognitive-behavior therapy in which you work with patients in three ways: group therapy, one-on-one therapy, and at-home phone calls from therapists. Patients engage in therapy both in and outside of rehabilitation centers.

Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) uses intervention techniques to help people with mental disorders engage in healthy response behavior. ABA is often used for autistic persons, including children who fall on the autism spectrum. As an applied behavior analyst, you'll teach parents, teachers, and others close to your patients to aid in changing their response behavior. You'll help patients learn the skills necessary for a successful life, apply those skills to new situations, and stop behaviors that may harm themselves or others. ABA patients typically create long-standing relationships with their therapists.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were about 85,180 jobs held by substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in 2014 (www.bls.gov).The projected job growth for this field was 31% from 2012-2022.

The BLS reported the mean annual wage for such counselors in May 2014 was $41,870. Individuals employed by junior colleges tended to earn the highest salaries, averaging $63,860 a year in 2014, per the BLS.

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  • George Mason University

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