Episode 14: The ABCs of Behavior

Guest: Dr. Erika Vivyan

Her specialty is in serving children, teens, young adults, and parents.  She is particularly interested in anxiety and stress, including the diagnosis and treatment of social anxiety disorder (social phobia), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), selective mutism (SM), separation anxiety, specific phobias (e. g., weather), trauma disorders, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Her education and experience as a school psychologist gives her a thorough understanding of Section 504 and Special Education services in schools.


Before moving to Austin, Erika earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Michigan State University (GO GREEN!) in East Lansing, Michigan.  She graduated with a dual major in Arts and Humanities as well as Psychology; and also completed a minor in Educational Studies.  She earned a Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees at the University of Wisconsin (ON WISCONSIN!) in Madison, Wisconsin.  She received formal training in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), parent management training (PMT), trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), exposure and response prevention (ERP), and parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT).


She has experience working with children, teens, young adults, and parents in outpatient, school, and medical settings.  She completed an APA-accredited pre-doctoral internship at the Texas Child Study Center and Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas.  Erika Vivyan also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Austin Child Guidance Center, where she served English- and Spanish-speaking clients by conducting psychoeducational evaluations and providing therapy for a wide range of presenting concerns.


She is a BIG health and wellness fanatic as well– Dr. Erika loves teaching fitness and dance classes all around Austin.  Her favorite place to be is walking, running, or kayaking along Town Lake with her little rescue mutt (& parvo survivor!) named Zadie.  She also loves exploring Austin’s restaurants and live music venues with friends and family.

There are two major types of consequences. We are looking at reinforcers and punishment. A consequence is whatever happens after a behavior. A reinforcer is anything that happens after a behavior that increases the behavior.  Punishment is anything that decreases the behavior.

– Dr. Erika Vivyan

Some topics that were discussed include:

  • The ABC of behavior, antecedent, behavior, consequence
  • Thorough understanding of antecedent
  • Learning to keep the confusion out of labels
  • Differentiate personality type from behaviors
  • Breaking down the complexity of behavior modification into understandable information
  • Practical application of behavior management techniques
  • Strategies parents can implement right away
  • Positive punishment
  • Behavior reinforcement
  • B.F. Skinner principles
  • Real life consultation based on experience


As parents we have tendency to focus directly on the behavior. More often than not it is the negative behavior that get our attention. We have to remember it is just important if not more important to focus on the positive behavior. Dr. Erika highlights an essential approach to understanding our children’s behavior. First, she lays out the antecedent. This is what happens prior to the actual behavior we witness. This can be a host of contributors from a long day at school to being hungry or tired. We have to observe these behaviors and try our best to be objective. She than move toward the behaviors themselves. Followed by the appropriate consequence for the issue at hand. If we learn to look beyond the behavior we have a better methodology for addressing things appropriately.

Dr. Erika highlights theories of B.F. Skinner. B. F. Skinner was one of the most influential of American psychologists. A behaviorist, he developed the theory of operant conditioning — the idea that behavior is determined by its consequences, be they reinforcements or punishments, which make it more or less likely that the behavior will occur again.

 Contact Dr. Erika Vivyan:

She is currently accepting new therapy and assessment clients at Austin Anxiety & OCD Specialists at our Westlake Hills therapy office M-Th 12 pm – 8 pm. She is excited to be accepting Blue Cross Blue Shield and Lyra starting in 2020! For more information or to schedule an appointment please call (512) 246-7225 or email the practice at hello@austinanxiety.com. I look forward to working with you!

References & links mentioned:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Considered the treatment of choice for anxiety disorders, CBT is an effective, well-established treatment supported by decades of clinical research. For most anxiety disorders, CBT consists of psychoeducation, cognitive restructuring, relaxation training, and exposure therapy. A relatively short-term therapy, patients typically begin to experience improved symptoms after 4-6 therapy sessions. On average, therapy consists of 16-20 sessions with occasional booster sessions to maintain long-term gains and prevent relapse.


Behaviorists, in the psychology world, attempt to understand and change human behavior. For many clients who experience anxiety and/or behavior difficulties, I like to incorporate behavioral strategies such as positive reinforcement to make improvements in symptoms. Many children who present with Selective Mutism (SM) do well with behavioral strategies that motivate and reward their speech.


Exposure and response prevention is a critical component of treatment for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Essentially, a client is exposed to something that causes discomfort (e.g., a social interaction in social phobia). Then, whatever the automatic response is (e.g., avoidance), the therapist prevents it. That is, a client with social phobia might be encouraged to remain in a social interaction for longer than is typically comfortable. The goal is to reduce the brain’s automatic fear or stress resopnse in harmless situations so that the client can gain control of their behavior and emotional response in whatever situation.


Parent management training is an extension of behavioral therapy that allows parents and guardians to change the behavior of their children. Key components include positive reinforcement, parental attention, rewards, and privileges. I also guide parents in using an effective time-out strategy. Since I have training in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), I also use a lot of these concepts in my work.

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Episode 14: The ABCs of Behavior

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