Behavioral Psychology

Behavioral psychology is discussed in every introductory course and is also known as behaviorism. This theory was first developed in the early 20th century by B.F. skinner and John B. Watson with the premise of all behaviors is learned. Many people have heard of the phrase “Pavlov’s dogs” which was a discovery by physiologist Ivan Pavlov and relates to dogs salivating in response to the sound of a bell. This type of conditioning exemplifies behavioral psychology because it shows how learning can occur through associations, in this case, a bell. Conditioning will impact behavior and association; the more conditioning, the quicker the response and stronger the association with an object. In absence of the conditioning to the object, the associated behavior disappears.

Another theory presented by B.F. Skinner discusses learning through punishment and rewards. As most of us are aware, desired behavior can be reinforced by consequences to the behavior. Skinner also concluded that the timing of these rewards and punishments are significant in changing the behavior. Many of these studies are still used to understand and treat autistic children and those who struggle with developmental delays. Behavioral psychology is based on understanding how to effectively change the way someone behaves.


People in this field are interested in studying human behavior, their actions, emotions, and thoughts. Behavioral psychology is the branch of psychology that believes that a person’s mental and emotional state of mind can be changed through behavior modification which includes cognitive restructuring and behavioral modeling.

In this role, you will observe a clients’ behavior and look for patterns in order to improve their lives. As a behavioral psychologist, you can administer conditioning intervention or provide counseling to clients who want to overcome habits or actions. Many professionals specialize in a particular field such as behavioral disorders, substance abuse counseling, smoking, eating disorders, or phobias, which typically have a root cause. Many times the behavioral psychologist needs to determine the negative thoughts related to the behavior in question. Behavioral psychology studies the mind’s response to different stimuli. Once an approach to treat the patient is determined, the professional will administer behavior therapy to correct the behavior. Classical conditioning will involve controlling or eliminating association with an object, situation, or object which involves reward and punishment.

To practice in the field, a graduate degree is required with most professionals obtaining a doctoral degree in five years. Doctorate students are required to complete a dissertation and one year post-graduate experience. Courses will focus on developmental psychology, personality disorders, behavioral problems, and applied behavioral analysis.

All states require behavioral psychology licensure by the American Psychological Association before practicing in the profession. Although the licensing requirements differ by state, all practicing doctorates must complete their degree, internship, have practical experience in the field, and pass the licensure test.

Some states also require continuing education credits to renew licenses. Most behavioral psychologists do not mind this because it allows them to remain abreast of trends in the industry and stay updated with new approaches and advancements in their field. Some of the character traits of this profession include being patient, encouraging, trustworthy, and respectful with good listening skills. A behavioral psychologist can earn six figures and can find jobs at medical facilities, universities, rehabilitation, substance abuse centers, and research agencies. The demand for this profession will continue to grow as our society continues to evolve in our understanding emotional and mental disorders.

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