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Habit Reversal Training


Updated April 22, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.


Habit reversal training is a behavioral therapy that is effective in reducing tics associated with Tourette's syndrome as well as troublesome behaviors associated with impulse control disorders such as trichotilomania (hair-pulling) and pathological skin picking.

Habit reversal training has four main components:

  • Awareness training: greater attention is brought to tics and other behaviors so that the affected person can gain better self-control.

  • Development of a competing response: competing responses help to replace the old tic or impulsive behavior. Usually the competing response is the opposite of the tic or impulsive behavior and is something that can be carried out for longer than just a couple of minutes.

  • Building Motivation: the patient is encouraged to make a list of all of the problems that were caused by the behavior. Parents and friends are also asked to praise the person for their accomplishments thus far.

  • Generalization of New Skills: patients are encouraged to practice their new skills in a range of different contexts, not just those that they have mastered to date.


Piacentini, J., Chang, S. "Habit Reversal Training for Tic Disorders in Children and Adolescents2005 29: 803-822

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