Functional Analysis

Functional Analysis

Functional Analysis

It is common that clients will experience thoughts that reinforce beliefs that are false. The beliefs that they practice can contribute to difficult behavior that affects their relationships and accomplishments in life. Functional analysis is the stage of cognitive-behavioral therapy that needs to be learned in terms of thoughts and feelings because it can contribute to the individual's maladaptive responses. Getting in touch with these feelings can be a difficult process – but, when it has been done it can lead to self discovery which is essential throughout this treatment. It is also necessary to get in touch with these feelings because it has the power to result in avoidance and isolation over time.

Goals of Functional Analysis

The goal of Functional Analysis is to identify the client's problematic thinking so that they can learn new thoughts and feelings contributing to a productive maladaptive response. The process of Functional Analysis may take some time between the therapist and the client although it is best to go through this stage of the therapy so that all of the necessary data relating to behavior or trauma can be collected and studied intricately. The focus is to illustrate the necessary information pertaining to the client so that it can be reversed which allows for the creation of a new maladaptive behavior. Through direct observation and systematic manipulation the therapist will create a new, effective pattern in the client that is beneficial toward their wants and needs.

When is Functional Analysis Used?

Functional Analysis is used when a client possesses a behavior that is detrimental toward themselves. They may be confused as to why they process information and respond to situations the way that they do. In order to change this behavior and their current relationships it is necessary to understand their function and what has caused it. This is used when a patient truly wants to improve themselves by acknowledging their trauma or issues and move forward so that they can get rid of the habitual thinking and doing. The "antecedents" behind their behavior must be changed before balance can be found.

How Functional Analysis Works

This methodology works by paying attention to the client's behavior. The counselor will look at how frequent it's displayed, what it consists of and how intense it is. There are certain antecedents that have resulted in this behavior: people, events, objects and activities. The antecedent will be identified first because this is what translates the behavior. The therapist is going to anticipate the response and prevent it if it is possible to do so. After those have been recognized the therapist will then acknowledge the consequences and deliberate them to the client so that they have a deeper understanding of the cause and their effect.

There are some consequences in clients that can result in a learning behavior or create a new problem that is damaging toward their happiness. There are some outside factors that can also affect the way that a patient is responding and creating consequences. The counselor will make note of these to the client so that they are aware of the effect that it may be having toward their body. If the client already has a difficult time responding in some situations, it may not help if they are not getting an adequate amount of sleep or practicing an unhealthy diet. These outside factors can actually promote their negative behavior because of the chemical imbalances in their body. As the patient becomes more familiar with these outside factors they will also learn that they are in control of something that can help prevent the negative behavior.

The amount of time that it takes to conduct the Functional Analysis stage will depend on the antecedents and behavior of the patient. If they have a difficult time expressing themselves or are aggressive in responding to the treatment it could take more session hours. Regardless, the stage focuses on the root cause of a behavior and dispels it from the client so that they can learn new ways to process information and react to their environment. By the time the treatment has been completed the individual will have gained a consistent thought process that contributes to their wellbeing and relationships. It's important to feel in control of responses so that we are not acting in an involuntary manner as a result of something that has happened to us in the past.

Criticism of Functional Analysis

The criticism toward Functional Analysis argues that the ability to measure the patient's emotions is not based off of "science." It is stated that therapists conduct their basis off of variables and cognitions that cannot be measured, such as love and trust.


Ferster, C. (n.d.). A functional analysis of depression. Retrieved from

Structural functionalism. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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