Behavior modification has always been plagued by controversy. For many, the use of behavior modification is forcing a person to change against his will. What some fail to realize is that human behavior is continuously being modified by our environment. The goal is to increase, not decrease, personal freedom by expanding the behavioral options available to the person. Increased behavioral options enhance opportunities for community, social, and family interaction. Such opportunities are severely restricted for people with behavior problems. Behavior modification is a structured technique for reducing behaviors that limit independence and increasing actions that empower a person.

There are a number of basic concepts regarding the ethical use of behavior modification. Clients should be living in the least restrictive setting and be provided a therapeutic environment that is safe, fun and offers access to a variety of activities. The goal of any behavior procedure should be to benefit the client and protect his welfare, not to improve staff convenience. Clients should be treated by competent staff who are trained and supervised by experienced professionals. Clients should be taught functional skills to replace maladaptive behaviors. Behavior programs should be methodically evaluated for effectiveness. Behavior programs that include punishers should be used only after other reinforcement programs have been exhausted. When two programs are deemed effective, the least aversive procedure should be used. Make certain that the staff does not define behaviors as maladaptive behaviors based on personal values. While reducing target behaviors, closely observe for an increase in other inappropriate behaviors. Use reasonable intervention procedures, for example, verbal aggression would generally not require physical restraint.

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