What Is Behavioral Psychology?
Do you read people well? Do friends often turn to you for advice? Are you interested in studying the behavior of humans? If you answered yes to these questions, then you might be interested in a career in behavioral psychology. Keep reading to learn more about the field. Schools offering Applied Behavioral Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Behavioral Psychology Defined
Behavioral psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the study and alteration of people's behaviors, including their actions, emotions and thoughts. This branch, also known as behaviorism, relies on the theory that mental and emotional disorders can be improved through behavior-modifying techniques. Such techniques include cognitive restructuring, behavioral modeling and, most commonly, classical and operant conditioning.
Classical conditioning is a behavioral-intervention technique by which two stimuli that are paired together repetitively elicit the same behavioral response separately. By presenting a person with both a neutral stimulus and a behavior-inducing stimulus, that person will begin to respond to the neutral stimulus in the same way he or she responds to the behavior-inducing stimulus.
Operant conditioning, on the other hand, is a technique that focuses on the association between voluntary behavior and consequence. In this conditioning situation, subjects are either punished or rewarded after an action so that behavior is associated with either a negative or positive consequence.
If you're involved in behavioral psychology, chances are you'll want to start up a career as a psychologist. In this position, you'll observe, record and interpret clients' behaviors and problems. You'll look for patterns within their lives in order to help them improve their mental and emotional health. You may choose to specialize in behavioral psychology, which can involve administering conditioning interventions to help patients overcome mental and emotional obstacles troubling their lives.
You might also consider becoming a counselor. Behavioral psychology lends itself well to the counseling profession, because behavioral-modification techniques can be used to help clients overcome unwanted habits or actions. You might choose to specialize in one area of the field, such as educational, vocational, rehabilitation, mental health and family counseling. Behavioral psychology specialists may be interested in behavioral disorder and substance abuse counseling, which are the most closely related to behavioral psychology.
Graduate-level education is necessary for most behavioral psychology careers. Counselors can get by with a master's degree in some cases, but psychologists must have doctoral degrees. In a behavioral psychology degree program, you can expect to take courses in developmental psychology, personality disorders, behavioral problems and applied behavioral analysis. You may also complete a clinical practicum in behavioral psychology. Both psychologists and clinical counselors are typically required to earn licensure before practicing in the profession.
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