Contemporary behavior therapy is characterized by an emphasis on client participation in therapeutic goal setting and a balancing of client rights (particularly when the client is relatively powerless) against societal needs, values, and expectations. Even in institutional settings the application of techniques is much less mechanistic and intrusive, and behavior therapists are trained to apply their techniques with stringent safeguards of client rights.

An increasing awareness of the roles of thoughts and feelings in the production and maintenance of behavior has led to behavior therapists' becoming more client-centered and humanistic in their approaches to behavior change. This awareness has also produced an increasing emphasis on teaching clients self-control techniques rather than "applying techniques to clients" without consideration of the active role the client should play in the process of changing behavior.

By virtue of the inclusion of cognitive and contextual variables in theory and application, contemporary behavior therapy is a considerably advanced over early behavior therapy, which was based largely on animal models of learning. Behavior therapy is unique among current psycho-therapeutic schools in that practitioners rely on repeated, data-based, objective assessments of client behaviors, thoughts, and feelings to aid in the establishment of therapeutic goals and the continuous assessment of therapeutic progress. Contemporary behavior therapy is a diverse field in which theoretical progress and practice are based on demonstrable advances in scientific knowledge, rather than on the pronouncements of authorities or "gurus." Although not yet fully integrated into behavior-therapy practice, developments in basic psychology, human rule-governed behavior (Hayes), cognitive sciences, and computer science all hold promise for enhancing both treatment efficacy and sensitivity to ethical constraints. As practitioners of a discipline and through organizations such as the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy, behavior therapists are learning how to apply these rigorous standards to themselves and to their personal interactions with clients, colleagues, students, and society at large.


SEE ALSO: Autonomy; Behaviorism; Coercion; Freedom and Free Will; Informed Consent; Mental Health Therapies; Mental Illness; Neuroethics; Patients' Rights: Mental Patients' Rights; Psychiatry, Abuses of; Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Therapies

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Timmons, P. L.; Oehlert, M. E.; Sumeral, S. W.; Timmons, C.W.; et al. 1997. "Stress Inoculation Training for Maladap-tive Anger: Comparison of Group Counseling versus Computer Guidance." Computers in Human Behavior 13(1): 51-64.

Vincelli, F. 1999. "From Imagination to Virtual Reality: The Future of Clinical Psychology." Cyberpsychology and Behavior 2(3): 241-248.

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