C H A P T E R 12
Behavioral and Cognitive Behavioral Models
Behavioral and cognitive behavioral psychotherapeutic models have been applied to family
therapy only in the last thirty or so years. The use of therapeutic behavioral methods with
individuals, however, goes back to the early 1960s when, largely as a reaction against what was
perceived as unverifiable psychodynamic theory and technique, a movement began to bring
the scientific method to bear upon the psychotherapeutic process. Cognitive therapies,
especially as applied to families, emerged in the early 1980s as an expansion of earlier behavioral approaches to couples in conflict (Dattilio, 2001).
Behavioral Therapy and Family Systems
Early efforts to modify behavior involved the application of learning theory and other experimentally based principles to changing undesired client behavior. In these initial formulations, family members when considered at all were assumed to be a part of the client’s natural environment. As such, in seeking ways to extinguish the client’s problematic or maladaptive behavior, the therapist observed the manner in which family members stimulated or aroused that behavior in the client. While it was assumed that modifying an individual’s deviant behavior necessitated changing the behavior of key family members, therapeutic intervention directed at the family as a whole was rarely attempted.
Three pioneers in attempting to modify undesired behavior came from related disciplines—
social worker Richard Stuart (1969), psychologist Gerald Patterson (1971), and psychiatrist Robert Liberman (1970). These early behaviorists were more apt to address specific behavioral problems in families (poor communication between spouses, acting out behavior in children and adolescents), identified in a family assessment process, than attempt to gain a comprehensive picture of family dynamics (Sanders & Dadds, 1993). Limiting their therapeutic efforts to...