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Behavior modification therapy in Utah

Written by Brandon Okey. Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy.

Behavior modification therapy (BMT) is an integral part of addiction recovery. People in drug and alcohol rehab benefit from BMT by identifying and changing the behaviors that contribute to their substance abuse. 

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At Ardu’s Provo, Utah recovery center, we incorporate BMT and other evidence-based treatments to help you develop healthy coping strategies. Our team provides personalized care in a supportive environment, equipping you with the tools and guidance you need to overcome addiction and reclaim your life.

How does behavior modification therapy work?

Behavior modification therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative or unhealthy behaviors, replacing them with positive and healthier ones. BMT helps people in recovery overcome substance use disorder (SUD), whether it’s a drug or alcohol use disorder, by modifying the behaviors that contribute to their addiction.

The basic principle behind BMT is that all behaviors are learned and can be unlearned or replaced with more positive behaviors. This is achieved through a wide range of techniques.

What are the BMT techniques used in addiction recovery?

Behavior modification techniques are a set of tools and strategies used to change or shape someone’s behavior by manipulating the environmental factors that influence it. The techniques are based on the principles of operant conditioning, which suggests that behavior is controlled by its consequences. 

Behavior modification techniques should be applied not only during the initial stages of addiction recovery but also throughout the maintenance and relapse prevention phases to reinforce healthy behaviors, prevent relapse, and promote lasting behavioral change.

There are over 30 techniques used in behavior modification therapy. Here are several that are commonly used in treating addiction.

Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement involves providing rewards or positive consequences when an individual engages in desired behaviors. The positive behaviors include maintaining sobriety, attending therapy sessions, and participating in healthy activities. Positive reinforcement could include verbal praise, tokens, or privileges such as extra phone time or outings. 

Consistent reinforcement of positive behaviors increases the probability that individuals will continue engaging in them, ultimately facilitating their recovery process.

Negative reinforcement

Negative reinforcement focuses on removing unpleasant stimuli or negative consequences when an individual demonstrates desired behaviors. For example, if a person successfully resists a craving, they may be allowed to skip a chore or task that they find unpleasant. 

This technique aims to increase the motivation and drive of the person to continue making progress in their recovery journey by associating desirable behaviors with relief from negative experiences. 


Extinction techniques identify and eliminate the reinforcing factors that maintain addictive behaviors. This may include helping patients recognize and avoid triggers, such as specific people, places, or situations that increase their likelihood of substance use. Therapists may also encourage them to change their social circles, distancing themselves from peers who engage in substance use and building new relationships with supportive, sober individuals. 

Extinction techniques also focus on developing alternative coping strategies and teaching healthier ways to manage stress, anxiety, and other challenging emotions without relying on substances.


The shaping technique reinforces successive approximations of the desired behavior. Therapists set small, achievable goals for the person and gradually increase the requirements for reinforcement as the person progresses. Shaping helps patients build confidence and momentum in their recovery by breaking down large goals into more manageable steps.

For example, a therapist may initially reward them for attending one therapy session, then two sessions, and so on, until regular attendance becomes a consistent behavior. 

Shaping is particularly important for those in addiction recovery. By consistently meeting smaller, more manageable goals, they develop a sense of self-efficacy and self-confidence needed for long-term success.

Stimulus control

Stimulus control techniques focus on modifying the person’s environment to reduce exposure to triggers and increase exposure to cues that promote healthy behaviors. This may involve removing alcohol or drug paraphernalia from the home, avoiding high-risk situations, or surrounding oneself with sober, supportive individuals. 

Therapists use stimulus control techniques to minimize relapse risk and foster the development of healthy habits by modifying the person’s environment.

Contingency management

Contingency management is a structured approach to behavior modification that uses a system of rewards and consequences to discourage undesired behaviors while promoting desired ones. In addiction treatment, this may involve providing vouchers, privileges, or other incentives for maintaining sobriety, attending therapy sessions, or meeting specific treatment goals. 

People in therapy may also face consequences, such as loss of privileges, for engaging in substance use, or failing to meet treatment requirements. Contingency management creates a clear and consistent framework for progress and accountability in recovery.

Coping skills training

Coping skills training is a critical component of addiction treatment that focuses on teaching individuals new strategies for managing stress, cravings, and other challenging situations without resorting to substance use. This may include relaxation exercises, deep breathing, mindfulness, problem-solving skills, and assertiveness training. 

Coping skills training equips people with a repertoire of healthy strategies to effectively manage the challenges of recovery, enhancing their resilience.

Behavioral contracting

Behavioral contracting involves developing a written agreement between the therapist and the individual that outlines specific goals, behaviors, and consequences related to their recovery. This contract serves as a clear roadmap for progress, setting expectations and boundaries for both parties. 

The contract may include commitments to attend therapy sessions, maintain sobriety, engage in specific activities, or meet other milestones. Behavioral contracts formalize the recovery process, fostering increased accountability, motivation, and engagement in treatment.

Systematic desensitization

Systematic desensitization is a technique that helps individuals overcome their fears and anxieties related to specific triggers or situations that may lead to substance use. This involves gradually exposing the person to these triggers in a safe and controlled environment while teaching them relaxation and coping strategies to manage their anxiety.

For example, a person in recovery from alcohol addiction may be asked to imagine themselves in a social situation where alcohol is present. Over time, the individual is exposed to increasingly realistic scenarios, building their confidence and ability to handle these situations without turning to alcohol.

Systematic desensitization develops resilience and reduces the risk of relapse when faced with real-life triggers.

Aversion therapy

Aversion therapy is a technique that creates a negative association with a specific behavior, such as substance use, by pairing it with an unpleasant stimulus. This reduces the desire to engage in the problematic behavior by making it less appealing or even repulsive. By creating a strong negative association, aversion therapy helps people overcome their cravings and maintain their commitment to sobriety.

Aversion therapy may involve the use of medications that produce unpleasant side effects when combined with alcohol or drugs, such as disulfiram (Antabuse) for alcohol addiction. The person learns to associate the substance with the negative experience, reducing their desire to consume it.

Consistent application of BMT techniques in addiction recovery paves the way for effective treatment. Therapists work closely with you to develop a personalized treatment plan and incorporate the most appropriate and effective techniques for your situation.

Benefits of behavior modification therapy in addiction recovery

Behavior modification therapy is a valuable therapeutic approach for people struggling with substance abuse and addiction. There are many ways behavior modification therapy improves their quality of life and promotes long-term sobriety.

Here are some of the key benefits of BMT in addiction recovery:

  1. BMT helps individuals identify and change the unwanted behaviors and bad habits that contribute to their addiction, replacing them with positive habits that support recovery.
  2. Through techniques such as systematic desensitization and coping skills training, BMT teaches individuals new ways to manage stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues without turning to drugs or alcohol.
  3. BMT encourages individuals in therapy to engage in healthy behaviors and rewards them for their progress, leading to more positive outcomes and a reduced risk of relapse.
  4. BMT can be customized to address the specific behavioral disorders and challenges each individual faces, making it a comprehensive approach to addiction recovery.
  5. Behavior modification therapy also addresses co-occurring mental health conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder. This comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment allows for a more stable and balanced state of mind, which is crucial for long-term recovery.
  6. BMT focuses on reinforcing positive behaviors, providing patients with the support and encouragement they need to maintain their sobriety and build a fulfilling life in recovery.
  7. BMT can be combined with other types of therapy to create a well-rounded and effective treatment plan for addiction recovery.

Behavior modification therapy is a comprehensive and complex approach to addiction recovery that requires the guidance and support of knowledgeable professionals. At Ardu, our experienced team of therapists and counselors specializes in using BMT techniques to help you overcome substance abuse and build the skills necessary for long-term sobriety. 

We understand that every person’s journey to recovery is unique, and we are dedicated to providing compassionate, individualized care that addresses the specific needs and challenges of each client. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, contact Ardu Recovery Center. We help you take the first steps towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Ardu’s approach to behavior modification therapy

At Ardu, we recognize the power of behavior modification therapy and use it to help people who want to break free from substance abuse and addiction. We tailor our approach to BMT to the unique needs of each client.

We begin by conducting a thorough assessment to identify the specific behaviors, triggers, and underlying issues that contribute to your addiction. Our BMT program is integrated into all phases of treatment, starting with detox and continuing through rehab. 

  • Detox is the first and often the most challenging phase of recovery, but our medical experts will do everything in their power to make your stay at our drug and alcohol detox facility as comfortable as possible. During detox, positive reinforcement and stimulus control help you manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and develop healthy coping strategies. This sets the stage for a more successful transition into the next phase of treatment. 
  • In our inpatient rehab program, clients participate in intensive individual and group therapy sessions that employ BMT techniques to address the root causes of their addiction. We place a strong emphasis on teaching practical skills, such as coping with stress, managing emotions, and building healthy relationships. Through the use of positive reinforcement, shaping, and other BMT strategies, we help you develop a sense of self-efficacy and motivation to sustain your recovery.
  • For those who require a less intensive level of care, our outpatient program offers the same high-quality BMT services in a more flexible format. You attend therapy sessions on a regular basis while maintaining your daily responsibilities. This allows you to practice your newly acquired skills in real-world situations, with the ongoing support and guidance of our expert staff.

The most effective addiction treatment is one that addresses the whole person: mind, body, and spirit. That’s why we integrate BMT with a range of complementary therapies. 

Integration with other treatment modalities

The combination of BMT with other evidence-based therapies allows you to address the multiple factors contributing to your addiction and develop a comprehensive set of skills and strategies for recovery.

Some of the key therapies and treatment modalities that we integrate with BMT include:

  1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) identifies and changes negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to addictive behaviors. CBT and BMT pave the way for healthier ways of thinking and coping with stress.
  2. Motivational interviewing (MI) is a client-centered approach that helps people in recovery explore and resolve ambivalence about change. By integrating MI with BMT, we enhance clients’ intrinsic motivation to engage in treatment and make positive behavioral changes.
  3. Family therapy is incorporated with BMT to help clients and their loved ones heal from the damage caused by addiction, improve communication, and build a strong support system for long-term recovery.
  4. Mindfulness-based therapy, such as meditation and yoga therapy, contributes to greater self-awareness, emotional regulation, and stress management skills. By integrating these practices with BMT, we provide clients with a powerful toolkit for maintaining their sobriety and overall well-being.
  5. Holistic therapies, such as art and music therapy, provide hands-on opportunities for self-expression, self-discovery, and skill-building. These therapies complement our BMT program to help you develop a stronger sense of self and build the confidence needed for lasting recovery.
  6. Medication-assisted treatment is necessary for some people in addiction recovery, particularly those with opioid or alcohol addiction. Medication management is a valuable tool in managing withdrawal symptoms and reducing cravings. Our medical detox program combines medication-assisted treatment with BMT and other evidence-based therapies to create a safe environment for supervised withdrawal.
  7. Aftercare and relapse prevention are important aspects of our approach to addiction treatment. We work closely with clients to develop a comprehensive plan for ongoing support, including referrals to community resources, 12-step programs, and sober living environments. Our therapists help you identify and manage high-risk situations, develop a strong support network, and create a comprehensive aftercare plan

At Ardu Recovery Center, we create personalized treatment plans integrating behavior modification therapy with other effective approaches. Our comprehensive, tailored addiction treatment experience promotes lasting recovery and an improved quality of life.

Get help with Ardu Recovery Center

If you’re struggling with drug or alcohol addiction and looking for effective treatment options, Ardu Recovery Center’s behavior modification therapy services may be right for you. To enroll in an Ardu program, contact us online or via phone (801-872-8480). Our compassionate team will work with you to develop a personalized recovery plan that incorporates BMT techniques to help you build a strong foundation for long-term sobriety.

We understand that the cost of treatment can be a concern, which is why we accept most major health insurance providers. To verify your insurance coverage and gather more information about payment options, visit our insurance verification page.

We want to make the admissions process as simple and stress-free as possible. To learn more about how to get started, read more about our straightforward admissions process.

Brandon Okey

Brandon Okey is the co-founder of Ardu Recovery Center and is dedicated to empowering people on their journey to sobriety.

Behavior modification therapy FAQ

Who is behavior modification therapy for?

Behavior modification therapy can benefit a wide range of people seeking to change problematic, negative behaviors or develop healthier habits. Some of the people who can benefit most from BMT include:

  1. Individuals struggling with substance abuse and addiction: BMT helps those in recovery identify and change the behaviors that contribute to their addiction, develop coping strategies, and maintain sobriety.
  2. People with mental health disorders: BMT is often used in conjunction with other therapies to help individuals with conditions such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) manage their symptoms.
  3. Children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): BMT aids those with ADHD develop strategies to improve focus, organization, and impulse control.
  4. Individuals with autism spectrum disorders: BMT can be used to teach social skills, communication techniques, and adaptive behaviors to those with autism, helping them better navigate social situations and daily life.
  5. People seeking to change unhealthy habits: BMT can be applied to many different problematic behaviors, such as overeating, smoking, or procrastination.
  6. Parents and caregivers: BMT principles can be used by parents and caregivers to help children develop positive behaviors, manage difficult emotions, and improve family dynamics.
  7. Educators and students: BMT techniques can be employed in educational settings to encourage positive classroom behaviors, improve student motivation, and support learning.
  8. Employees and organizations: BMT can be used in the workplace to enhance productivity, improve communication, and foster a positive work environment.
  9. Individuals in the criminal justice system: BMT can be incorporated into rehabilitation programs to help offenders develop prosocial behaviors, reduce recidivism, and successfully reintegrate into society.
  10. Athletes and performers: BMT can help athletes and performers develop mental skills, such as goal-setting, self-motivation, and stress management, to improve their performance and overall well-being.

What are the techniques used in behavior therapy?

BMT techniques are used to address behavioral issues, such as disruptive behaviors, maladaptive habits, or skill deficits. Some of the most common BMT techniques include:

  1. Positive reinforcement
  2. Negative reinforcement
  3. Punishment (positive and negative)
  4. Extinction
  5. Token economies
  6. Behavioral contracting
  7. Modeling
  8. Shaping
  9. Chaining
  10. Prompting
  11. Fading
  12. Stimulus control

These techniques aim to increase desirable behaviors through reinforcement or decrease undesirable behaviors through punishment or removal of reinforcement. 

Is CBT the same as behavior modification?

CBT and behavior modification are not the same, though they share some similarities. Behavior modification solely focuses on modifying observable behaviors through reinforcement and punishment. Cognitive behavioral therapy also addresses thoughts, emotions, and cognitive patterns. While behavior modification is rooted in behaviorism, CBT incorporates cognitive techniques to change thought processes and beliefs. CBT also tends to be more collaborative and insight-oriented compared to the more directive approach of behavior modification.

What is the best behavioral method?

There is no single “best” method. Different techniques and methods of behavior modification therapy may be more suitable for different people and situations. For instance, token economies and behavior charts can be particularly effective for children, while contingency management programs may work better for adults struggling with substance abuse. Techniques like modeling and shaping are often used to teach new skills, whereas aversive conditioning may be more appropriate for eliminating self-injurious or severely disruptive behaviors.

Positive punishments or reinforcements are generally preferred and more effective over punishment-based techniques. The most effective BMT approach usually involves a comprehensive plan that combines multiple techniques tailored to the individual’s specific goals, learning style, and motivations. 

What can I use instead of CBT?

Alternatives to CBT include other therapeutic modalities such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), interpersonal therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and behavior modification therapies.

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