Functional Analysis Of Behavior: What It Is And What It Is For

Functional analysis of behavior

In therapy it is necessary to broadly address the patient’s behavior. Whether they are his feelings, experiences, thoughts or beliefs, the psychologist must look for what influences the way the person who comes to him behaves.

Functional behavior analysis is a very useful tool which allows identifying the patient’s behaviors, but without leaving aside the context in which they occur or what is behind their occurrence. This is a fundamental analysis when planning and directing therapy or psychoeducation processes.

Let’s see what this technique consists of, what it is used for and its characteristics.

What is functional behavior analysis?

People who come to therapy can present varied behaviors, caused by multiple causes.

Functional analysis of behavior allows you to organize the patient’s most important information. It takes into account the person’s social relationships, their problematic behaviors and the events that have acquired importance in the origin and maintenance of the problem. Once this information is collected, the aim is to seek explanations for the problem behaviors with the intention of finding a solution.

In order to understand this tool in more depth It is necessary to explain a little above what should be understood by behavior. This concept includes both the observable and covert behaviors of the patient. Not only are the physical actions taken by the person taken into account, such as smoking excessively or consuming a narcotic; His beliefs and thoughts regarding the problem also become important.

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The psychologist is not only in charge of detecting what is not adaptive in the patient. He must find an explanation behind why the person behaves this way, relating it to events that happened before, that is, the background. Therefore, when carrying out the functional analysis of behavior it is necessary find the relationships between what the person has experienced and their current behavior.

To exemplify this, let’s imagine two people who are doing the same behavior: not eating at dinner time. Although both are basically behaving the same, in an analysis of this type we would not only detect this specific behavior, but we would also try to find why they are doing it.

It may be the case that one of them does not eat dinner simply because she has snacked too much and is not hungry, while the other may look fat and has decided to eat less.

Schematically, The aspects that meet the functional analyzes of behavior are the following:

When carrying out an analysis of this type, two types of hypotheses can be proposed: origin hypothesis and maintenance hypothesis. The former try to clarify how the problematic behavior originated, taking into account the contextual elements present at the time of the problem’s emergence. Maintenance hypotheses try to explain why the behavior continues to be carried out today, what elements have reinforced it or why it has not yet been extinguished.

Since this type of analysis works with hypotheses, it is very important that the psychologist be rigorous and objective. Besides, As the therapy evolves, new information will surface.with which it will be necessary to rethink the problem for which the patient initially came and reformulate the explanations that were focused on developing an intervention plan.

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Functional analysis of behavior is a very useful tool, since It differs from a mere descriptive analysis by meeting the following characteristics:

1. It is functional

Although the first thing that is usually done is to identify and describe the behaviors, this is done with a functional intention. That is to say, The aim is to collect information to explain the problem and develop a therapeutic or educational action plan.and does not study static elements, but events and actions that can be located in time.

2. Focuses on the present

Taking personal background into account is an important aspect; nevertheless, we should focus on how the patient behaves now.

3. Study relationships

The functional analysis of behavior is based on looking at the relationships between behavioral events (emitted by the subject) and environmental events (that occur around them).

Thus, It does not focus only on the individual, but sees them as a part of reality interconnected with their environment.contrary to what happens with psychological research proposals based on introspection.

Those behaviors that significantly interfere with the well-being of the person acquire special importance, which is why it will be necessary to focus therapy on the resolution of these behaviors.

4. It is dynamic

Human behavior is somewhat unstable. The patient can evolve as psychotherapy develops. Furthermore, it may be the case that the patient himself did not initially provide all the information necessary to understand her psychological discomfort.

That is why the psychologist You must be aware that the hypotheses raised at the beginning can be refutedand must rework them based on the new information.

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5. It is ideographic

Each person is different when it comes to their personality, behavior and experiences.

The hypotheses raised after analyzing the behaviors They can only explain the reason for the behavior of the person analyzed.since this is linked to a chain of unique and unrepeatable events, which leave a mark on their learning history.

That is, what is discovered in one person is difficult to generalize to the entire rest of the population.

6. It is heuristic

Basically, This type of analysis is a scheme that describes the person’s behavior, through which we organize the information obtained about it. It is not intended to describe human reality, only that of the patient who has come for consultation.

7. It’s hypothetical

Although the ideal would be to be able to precisely explain why the person behaves this way, the functional analysis of behavior is still a tool that proposes hypothetical explanations.

That is, what is believed to be the origin of the problem and what causes it to persist can be modified, It is not information that implies a clear and immutable causality.

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