Behavioral therapy, which was once considered an alternative treatment method for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, now has the potential to become the leading therapeutic option when it comes to treating patients with anxiety and mood disorders.
What is behavioral therapy?
Also called behavioral modification or cognitive behavioral therapy, behavioral therapy is a low-risk treatment that focuses on responding to and correcting potentially self-destructive behaviors in patients diagnosed with conditions including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- social phobia
- bipolar disorder
- personality disorders
- substance abuse
- eating disorders
The therapy is used in numerous other situations, including on patients with chronic diseases to help manage pain. Physicians can prescribe behavioral therapy to cancer patients to help them cope with radiation therapy, and pregnant women often participate in behavioral therapy as a safe alternative to medication.
When employing behavior therapy, medical professionals use simple strategies such as role playing, positive reinforcement, journal writing, music therapy, aromatherapy and more to help patients cope with the anxiety and stress caused by their condition and replace bad habits with good ones.
Patients with these conditions often feel lost and become despondent over time despite taking prescribed medications. Behavioral therapy is an effort to combat those feelings by providing the personal connection the patient is craving and to facilitate a partial link to the memories and behaviors that are often seemingly lost.
For example, a patient with Alzheimer’s disease might not remember their child’s name. But with a little prompting, they might remember every word to church hymns they sang growing up. Behaviors that might seem odd, like wandering and muttering, could actually indicate that the patient is looking for a bathroom, but can’t find it. With behavioral therapy, caregivers are trained to calmly respond to the behaviors of the patient with a full understanding of the underlying reason for the behavior.
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, behavioral therapy has proven to be much more effective in the treatment of dementia than anti-psychotics, which are often prescribed.
How can behavioral therapy help?
Behavioral therapy can significantly improve quality of life for both the patient and the patient’s family. The progress of the disease won’t be stopped, but patients typically feel better understood, less lonely and are more engaged. There is also a possibility that some techniques may gradually reduce the need for medicine in other areas. However, all patients should continue using all prescribed medication.
Please contact your physician for more information regarding behavioral therapy, and to determine whether it might be the right choice for you or a loved one.