Direct Treatment of Problem Behavior

Applied behavior analysts usually focus directly on the environmental events that generate and maintain behavior. Typically, target behavior and the events that precede and follow those responses are counted for several days. During this baseline, treatment is withheld so that a later change in behavior can be evaluated. This assessment also provides information about stimulus control (events that precede the behavior) and contingencies of reinforcement (events that follow behavior) that maintain responses.

Following a baseline period of assessment, a behavioral plan of action may be negotiated between the behavior therapist, the client, and concerned others (e.g., Azrin et al., 1994, for treatment program aimed at drug abuse). This plan usually includes a statement of target responses, consequences that follow different actions, and long-term goals. In many cases, a detailed behavioral contract is drawn up that objectively specifies what is expected of the client and the consequences that follow behavior (Hall & Hall, 1982). Figure 13.1 outlines the major principles of behavioral contracts. At a minimum, the behavior analyst should clearly identify the problem behavior; and the contract should specify in a straightforward manner the reinforcement for meeting behavioral objectives, the people who provide reinforcement, and the contingencies of reinforcement.

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