Functional Analytic Psychotherapy

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP) is an approach to clinical psychotherapy that uses a Radical Behaviorist position informed by B.F. Skinner's analysis of Verbal Behavior.

Although sufficient for use alone, this approach is offered as something that may be practiced in addition to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). FAP focuses on in-session client-therapist interactions as the basis for clinical change.

Clinically relevant behavior (CRB) represents the categories of client change in FAP and there are three general categories of CRBs. CRB1s represent problematic behavior that occur in-session that are the focus of change. CRB2s are the behaviors that manage or deal with CRB1s. CRB3s represent client statements or rules about positive changes that are encouraged in FAP. The concept of CRB3s might be seen as being akin to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). However, despite these similarities, the interpretation and theoretical justification for them are different [Kohlenberg & Tsai, Functional Analytic Psychotherapy] .

Basic conceptual structure

The basic FAP analysis utilizes what is called the "clinically relevant behavior" (CRB1), which is the client's presenting problem as presented in-session. Client in-session actions that improve their CRB1s are referred to as CRB2s. Client statements, or verbal behavior, about CRBs are referred to as CRB3s. The CRB3s, although based on Skinner's analysis of Verbal Behavior, are what most closely approximate CBT cognitions [Kohlenberg, R. J. & Tsai, M. (1991) Functional Analytic Psychotherapy. New York: Plenum] . In session focus on client behavior approximates the psychoanalytic conception of the therapeutic alliance (which is psychoanalytic parlance contains transference and counter-transference issues). [ibid]

FAP also explores covert verbal behavior such as mands-to-self and tacts-to-self, as well as rule governed versus contingency-shaped behavior. []

As a treatment Functional Analytic Psychotherapy places great focus on the therapeutic relationship. The result is a highly emotional and relationally based therapy. Often people do not associate such relationally focused interventions with a Skinnerian treatment.


The treatment manuals for functional analytic psychotherapy are published online for those who desire to do research [ Callaghan, G.M. (2006). The Functional Idiographic Assessment Template (FIAT) System - The Behavior Analyst Today, 7.(3) 357-398 [] ] [Callaghan, G.M. (2006). Functional Assessment of Skills for Interpersonal Therapists: The FASIT System. "The Behavior Analyst Today, 7(3)," 399-433 [] ]

Functional analytic psychotherapy has been applied to many complex clinical problems such as relational behavior around complex trauma (see [Kohlenberg, B.S., Tsai, M., & Kohlenberg, R..(2006). Functional analytic psychotherapy and the treatment of complex posttraumatic stress disorder. In V.M. Follette and J.I Ruzek (Eds.) "Cognitive -behavioral therapies for trauma". Guilford Press.] ). In the area of trauma the concept is that the relationship is where the post traumatic stress was formed and thus the relationship is where it needs to be improved. The relational work of FAP has also been applied to the supervision relationship [Callaghan, G.M. (2006).Functional Analytic Psychotherapy and Supervision. "International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 2.(3)," 416-425 ]


Jonathan Kanter explored the use of Functional Analytic Psychotherapy and another modality in one article for use with depression, a common clinical problem. [ The Behavior Analyst Today Volume 5, Issue Number 3 2004255Behavior Analytic Conceptualization and Treatment of Depression:Traditional Models and Recent AdvancesJonathan W. KanterUniversity of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeGlenn M. CallaghanSan Jose State UniversitySara J. Landes, Andrew M. Busch, and Keri R. BrownUniversity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee ]

Kantor also explored FAP in conjunction with CBT for depression in 2006. [The Effect of contingent reinforcement ontarget variables in outpatient psychotherapy fordepression: a successful and unsuccessful caseusing functional analytic psychotherapyJ. W. Kanter, S. J. Landes, A. M. Busch, L. C. Rusch, K. R. Brown, and D. E. Baruch, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and G. I. Holman. University of Washington, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis,2006, 39, 463–467 Number 4 (Winter 2006) [] ]

Research support

The major component of functional analytic psychotherapy is to target particular clinically relevant behavior and the use in session natural reinforcement to increase appropriate relational behavior. This approach has received considerable research over the past 50 years and can be considered an empirically valid process. (see [Cautilli, J., Riley-Tillman, T.C., Axelrod, S. and Hineline, P. (2005). The Role of Verbal Conditioning in Third Generation Behavior Therapy. "The Behavior Analyst Today, 6.(2)," 138-150 [] ] ). In some respects empirically supported principles, like those supporting FAP are more important then empirical support for treatment packages [Rosen, G.M. & Davison, G.C.(2003). Psychology should list empirically supported principles of change (ESPs) and not credential trademarked therapies or other treatment packages. Behavior Modification, 27, 300-312.]


Functional Analytic Psychotherapy was created by Dr. Robert Kohlenberg and Dr. Mavis Tsai in 1991. [Kohlenberg, R. J., & Tsai, M. (1991). Functional analytic psychotherapy: A guide for creating intense and curative therapeutic relationships. New York: Plenum.] . Functional analytic therapy offers an interesting model of child development and personality development (see child development for more).

As such it represents an extension of Stephen Hayes attempt to incorporate Behaviorism with clinical issues (although Hayes' approach utilized his own Relational Frame Theory instead of Skinner's analysis of Verbal Behavior). [see Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Stephen Hayes]

Third Generation Behavior Therapy

Often Functional Analytic Psychotherapy is lumped with Behavioral Activation, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Together these therapies are often referred to as third generation behavior therapy because the focus less on cognitive phenomena and more on functional analysis commonly found in applied behavior analysis and a behavioral theory of language and cognition.


External links

* Kohlenberg & Tsai's FAP website

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