Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapy is an approach to treatment that helps change problem behaviors. It is also called behavioral modification or cognitive behavioral therapy. Health care professionals use this type of therapy to replace bad habits with good ones. This type of treatment is used for many different challenges. From building self-esteem to treating autism spectrum disorder (ASD), behavior therapies focus on building awareness of behaviors and emotions, and helping the patient by addressing the connection between their thoughts and emotions and the actions that follow.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps a patient see that their thoughts and emotions can affect how they behave. CBT is generally a short-term treatment that helps a patient deal with a specific problem. During treatment, patients learn how to identify and change problematic thought patterns that influence their behavior. CBT is a common treatment used to treat conditions such as anxiety, depression, addiction and phobias.

The main goal of CBT is to help a person notice thought patterns that are harmful or not useful, and then replace those negative or distorted thought patterns with more positive thoughts.

Behavior Modification

Behavior modification is a treatment based on the principles of operant conditioning which replaces unwanted behaviors with more desirable ones through positive or negative reinforcement. It is used to treat a variety of problems in both adults and children including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and other conditions.

Behavioral Therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has become widely accepted among health care professionals and is used in many schools and treatment clinics. ABA encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative behaviors through repetitive teaching practices to improve a variety of skills. The child’s progress is tracked and measured.

Different Types of ABA Therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT) is a method of teaching in simplified and structured steps. Instead of teaching an entire skill in one lesson, the skill is broken down and “built-up” to its entirety using discrete repetitive trials that teach each step one at a time.
  • Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) is a type of ABA with age-appropriate discrete trials for preschool-aged children.
  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT) is derived from ABA and is play-based and child-initiated. Rather than target individual behaviors, PRT targets “pivotal” areas of a child's development. These include motivation, response to multiple cues, self-management and the initiation of social interactions. The philosophy is that, by targeting these critical areas, PRT will create broad improvements across other areas of sociability, communication, and behavior.
  • Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI) is a type of ABA that focuses on teaching verbal skills and motivates a child, adolescent or adult to learn language by connecting words with their purposes. The student learns that words can help get desired objects or other results.

Other Treatments for ASD and Related Conditions

Floor Time or Developmental, Individual-difference, Relationship-based (DIR) refers to time spent on the floor interacting with your child, following his lead, and reinforcing the aspects of play that bring joy and result in meaningful learning exchanges.

Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) uses visual cues to teach skills designed around individual strengths, skills, interests and needs. For example, picture cards of clothing items can help teach a child how to get dressed by breaking information down into small steps.

To learn more about ABA and therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorder go to:


Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

Utah Medicaid Provider Manual Autism Spectrum Disorder March 2019 (PDF Document 740 KB)
See Member Eligibility, page 8 for eligibility for ABA therapy.

Mayo Clinic - Cognitive behavioral therapy
Explains the structure, limits and intentions of this common type of mental health counseling.

Behavior Modification in the Classroom
From Mather, N., & Goldstein, S. (2001). Learning Disabilities and Challenging Behaviors: A Guide to Intervention and Classroom Management. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. pp. 96-117.

Lives in Balance for Behaviorally Challenging Kids
The mission of Lives in the Balance is to provide vital, accessible resources and programs to caregivers of behaviorally challenging kids; to bring the plight of these kids into the public consciousness; to address the systemic issues that cause many of these kids to slip through the cracks; and to promote parenting and disciplinary practices that foster the better side of human nature in all children.

Supporting and Responding to Behavior: Evidence-Based Classroom Strategies for Teachers (PBIS)
Tools for engagement in positive behavior support process for school, family, community; Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports.

Services for Patients & Families in Utah (UT)

For services not listed above, browse our Services categories or search our database.

* number of provider listings may vary by how states categorize services, whether providers are listed by organization or individual, how services are organized in the state, and other factors; Nationwide (NW) providers are generally limited to web-based services, provider locator services, and organizations that serve children from across the nation.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: September 2014; last update/revision: December 2020
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Tina Persels
Authoring history
2014: first version: Tina PerselsA; Shena McAuliffe, MFAR; Gina Pola-MoneyR
AAuthor; CAContributing Author; SASenior Author; RReviewer