Using functional analysis in psychotherapy

Since the days of Skinner, conducting a functional analysis has been at the core of behavior analysis. Even today, functional analysis is central to psychotherapy models such as acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, functional analytical psychotherapy and behavioral activation. It is also at the core of recent attempts to describe process based therapy. Functional analysis is a crucial process by which we make sense of the complex problems our clients want help with. It is both our road map for understanding these problems and the very tool for helping clients change.

Tecknad bild av Skinner.


Traditionally, the theoretical understanding of functional analysis has been based on research with animals other than humans. However, with the arrival of a modern behavior analysis of human language, relational frame theory (RFT), this situation has dramatically changed. We now have an increased understanding of how so called “private events” (feelings, thinking, remembering) influence human behavior as a whole. This means our functional analyses can be used across all aspects of human activity.

This workshop will bring together the conclusions from RFT regarding complex human behavior and show how this understanding can be applied in doing a clinical functional analysis in conjunction with the client, in such fashion that it contributes to the process of change. The workshop will include both a theoretical and a practical part and will touch on areas such as assessment, creating co-operation with the client and specific change-inducing interventions.

The second day seminar will be based on a couple of texts, discussing the same topic as the workshop. Here the focus will be more theoretical. Participants will be expected to have read the texts and the seminar will take its starting point in participants sharing their comments and questions, based on the texts.

Niklas Törneke

Niklas Törneke

Niklas Törneke is a Swedish psychiatrist and psychotherapist, originally trained in cognitive therapy. Since 1998 he has been working with ACT and is continuously training and supervising ACT both in his home country and internationally. He belongs to the original group of peer reviewed ACT trainers. He is the author of “The ABCs of human behavior” (with Jonas Ramnerö), “Learning RFT” and “Metaphor in Practice”.