Applied Behavior Analysis and Behavioral Medicine: History of the Relationship and Opportunities for Renewed Collaboration

Ashley Greenwald, Kathryn Roose, Larry Williams


Behavioral Medicine (BM) is an interdisciplinary field concerned with the development and integration of behavioral and biomedical sciences (Schwartz & Weiss, 1978b).  The interdisciplinary nature of the field poses barriers to researchers and practitioners interested in the field.  While there are currently many disciplines that contribute to the field of behavioral medicine, this paper focuses exclusively on the relationships between the biological and psychological sciences, highlighting the theoretical similarities and differences. Our preliminary analysis of publications in each discipline revealed that while Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) had early influences in behavioral medicine and many behavior scientists recommend the collaboration between ABA and BM, the relationship between the two is tenuous. The roles of an applied behavior analyst and practitioner of behavioral medicine are largely the same, focused on the prevention and treatment of health conditions.  These similarities provide excellent opportunity for collaborative work.  The present theoretical analysis of BM examines contributions of ABA to BM and vice versa, discusses ABA’s history and current role within the field BM, and provides a rationale for the future collaboration between of behavior science and behavioral medicine.


Behavioral medicine; theory

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Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility