Functional Analytic Psychotherapy FAP

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy:

Awareness, Courage, Love and Behaviorism

“FAP is about living fully by experiencing emotion, risking as much as our patients, wanting to change the world, wanting to relieve suffering and moving towards love and the capability for love. I just love the blend of creativity, pushing borders, intensity, existential meetings and potent therapeutic technique.” — Excerpt from a Dialectical Behavior Therapist

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy is an interpersonally-oriented psychotherapy designed to help alleviate problems and suffering that is fundamentally connected to our confilict or estrangement in human relationships. So much personal suffering occurs directly in the presence or absence of people; much of the emotional conflict that we humans feel is ultimately about our lack of safe, meaningful, loving human connection. FAP Therapy helps us awaken to our courage and risk actions of loving human exchange.

heart shape balloons in the sky


Reinforcing and Sustaining a Sacred Space of Awareness, Courage and Love:

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy uses behavioral principles to create and sustain a “sacred space of awareness,” courage and love wherein the therapeutic relationship is the primary vehicle for client growth and transformation.  Functional Analytic Psychotherapy shapes interpersonal effectiveness by nurturing clients’ abilities to speak and act compassionately on their truths and gifts, to engage in intimacy and to fully give and receive love.

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP) is contemporary research-based approach to clinical psychotherapy that uses a radical behaviorist position informed by B.F. Skinner‘s analysis of verbal behavior.

Although sufficient as a therapy model alone, this approach to psychotherapy is offered as something that may be practiced in addition to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Functional Analytic Psychotherapy is a counseling method that focuses on in-session client–therapist interactions as the basis for clinical change.

Clinically relevant behavior (CRB) represents the categories of client change in Functional Analytic Psychotherapy 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 somewhat akin to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, despite these similarities, the interpretation and theoretical justification for them are quite different. In FAP we are concerned only with the functional dimension of cognitive content.

History of Functional Analytic Psychotherapy

Main article: Behavior Analysis of Child Development

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy was created by Dr. Robert Kohlenber and Dr. Mavis Tsai in 1991. It offers an extremely compelling model of child development and personality development. This model held that verbal processes can be used to form a stable sense of who we are, through behavioral processes such as stimulus control. As such it represents an extension of Stephen Hayes attempt to incorporate behaviorism with clinical issues (although Hayes’ approach utilized his own instead of Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior).

Third Generation Behavior Therapy:

Often FAP is closely aligned with a number of research-based and empirically tested approaches to psychotherapy. Third Wave Cognitive Behavioral Therapies include:  Behavioral Activation Therapy, 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 they focus less on cognitive phenomena and more on functional analysis commonly found in Applied Behavior Analysis and a behavioral theory of language and cognition.

Professional Organizations:

The Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) has a special interest group for practitioner issues, behavioral counseling, and clinical behavior analysis. ABAI has larger special interest groups for Behavioral Medicine. ABAI serves as the core intellectual home for behavior analysts. ABAI sponsors two conferences/year – one in the U.S. and one international.

The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) also has an interest group in behavior analysis, which focuses on clinical behavior analysis. In addition, the Association for Behavioral and Cogntive Therapies has a special interest group in addicitons.

Doctoral level behavior analysts who are psychologists belong to the American Psychological Association‘s division 25 – Behavior analysis. APA offers a diplomate in behavioral psychology.

What makes FAP unique is the use of basic behavioral assumptions and learning principles about contingent shaping and the application of reinforcement during a therapy session. At the core of FAP is its hypothesized mechanism of clinical change, through contingent responding by the therapist to client problems live, in-session, while they occur

Relevant Links

The World Association for Behavior Analysis offers a certification for clinical behavior analysis which covers functional analytic psychotherapy

The below article from  The Journal of Psychotherapy Integration summarizes FAP and the academic foundations of this model of therapy. It is written for scholars and practitioners like clinical psychologists. However counseling clients that visit my Seattle psychotherapy practice frequently find such reading useful for our work so I have  included it here.

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy:

A Radical Behavioral Approach to Treatment and Integration

“Being human cannot be borne alone. We need other presences. We need soft night noises — a mother speaking downstairs, a grandfather rumbling in response, cars swishing past on Philadelphia Avenue and their headlights wheeling around the room. We need the little clicks and signs of a sustaining otherness. We need the Gods.”

   ~~ John Updike