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Strategies and skills of behavioral therapy1

To reach the potential benefits of behavioral therapy, it is important to pass along this skill set to your patients and build upon it. 


The simple practice of recording the patient’s eating and physical activity habits, as well as thoughts or feelings connected to those habits, enables patients to track progress toward goals and gain perspective on behavior patterns.

Example: Daily food and activity tracking. 

Stimulus control

After patients learn to identify the stimuli in their common environments that prompt incidental behaviors, they can modify the environment to limit their exposure to those stimuli. 

Example: Listing common food cues and modifying the environment to reduce those cues, such as removing high-calorie foods from accessible areas.

Behavioral substitution

Identify cues that are not related to hunger and substitute alternative behaviors for eating. 

Example: Listing common food cues and substituting responses like cleaning or other low-intensity activities.    


These are skills that help patients to identify current problems or anticipate potential problems, devise and implement solutions, and assess the effectiveness of the solution.    

Example: Most of the examples listed are examples of problem-solving. 

Cognitive reframing

The ways that patients view themselves and their behaviors can influence their ability to initiate and sustain behavior changes. Reframing a negative attitude into a positive one encourages patients to focus on progress as a habit rather than on setbacks.    

Example: Helping patients to overcome negative thoughts after regaining a small amount of weight by focusing on health and quality-of-life improvements.    

Goal setting

Setting goals for behavioral weight management should focus on progress and achievement over time. More about discussing goals can be found in the section Setting individual goals or in the Rethink your obesity discussions guide.       

Example: Setting a goal to cook most meals at home for 2 weeks with an incentive of dining out at the end of that time period. 


Also in Professional Education:


Related Information

Patient Materials

Explore materials to help get your patients started with weight management.

Professional Education

Learn techniques that will enable you to have an effective consultation around weight with your patients.


  1. Fabricatore AN. Behavior therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy of obesity: is there a difference? J Am Diet Assoc. 2007;107(1):92-99.