Behavioral assessment is used to observe and measure behavior in a specific situation. For example, someone who is phobic about making speeches or being around snakes might be asked to give a short speech or approach a caged snake. The person’s emotional, physiological and behavioral responses will then be measured. Usually, such assessments collect data that are used to set goals for treatment.
For example, if one stutters or shakes a lot during the speech, or if someone cannot come within 12 feet of the snake, the therapist may initially target these behaviors as goals for therapy. While results from questionnaires or other types of psychological assessment often require a certain degree of interpretation by the clinician, results from behavioral assessments, because they are directly quantified and observable, often require less inference and subjectivity.
Often, a behavioral assessment strategy started in the clinic will be given to the client to work on as homework. For example, people who seek help for weight control problems may be asked to record calorie intake at home. People with anxiety or anger control problems may be asked to keep an “ABC” diary of specific incidents. An “ABC” diary includes tracking:
|Events leading to the problem behavior
|An account of the actual problem behavior
|What happens as a result of the problem behavior
Such self–monitoring exercises provide a way to assess a problem continually throughout treatment. Problems involving specific fears (e.g. speech anxiety, specific phobia), skills deficits (e.g. poor social–interpersonal skills), and difficulties involving overt behaviors (e.g. anger–control problems, overeating, smoking, poor sleep, habitual avoidance or procrastination) can be easily assessed in this manner.