Saturday, December 15, 2012

Creating a model of behavioral change for yourself!

The new year is almost here, a time where people want to make big changes: do more of what they value and less of other things. Some people even make plans to cut some things out of their lives completely. The reality for a lot of people is that these changes are not easy - we depend on ourselves for changing habits and committing ourselves to our valued directions in life.

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT ) and the larger behavioral sciences community, making changes in your life is serious business. Most behavioral therapies and models focus on simple, easy, and measurable goals that lead to change. Information like this is important to pay attention to because making those first steps in pursuing your values are important. Moving beyond those first steps are basic principles that might shed some light on how the changes can be made in a long lasting and potentially more personally rewarding way:

First, behaviors are learned and may be influenced by biological factors. 
Behaviors take time to change, generally requiring twenty-one days of repetition to become a habit. 
Committing to behavior change is necessary for permanent or long-lasting changes. 
Having a substitute behavior is highly valuable. If you want to stop something, replacing it with something else to do instead does not promote reverting to the behavior you want to stop. 
Behaviors are purported to be best learned when there is a good example, role model, etc. to model the behaviors and be a source of emulation. 
Practice, practice, practice. Learning a behavior on your own is not easy, the above five points are about learning and doing them so the take home message is learning to do the behavior on your own. 
Encouragement and recovering from setbacks. Having some encouragement in response to even having the willingness to try this behavior change is a part of making this genuine change. Along with this encouragement is celebrating the successes along the way and being encouraged about recovering from the setbacks that occur.

The bottom line is this, CBT and other therapies using behavioral sciences to influence their interventions may use similar principles to the ones listed above in creating model for behavioral change. Whether you're a client wanting to make changes or a therapist working with clients who have change goals, doing this work involves commitment, willingness, and creativity.

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