Behavioural Therapies

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Behavioural Therapies

Behavioural Therapies

Behavioural therapies are based on the idea that abnormal behaviour can be learned.

According to this approach, successful training can alter a person's behaviour by teaching new responses. Unwanted or distressing behaviour can be 'extinguished'.

Changing behaviour through a training programme is called conditioning.

Classical conditioning means learning by direct association.

Remember Pavlov's classic experiments with dogs?

Behavioural Therapies

A quick reminder of how Pavlov got the dog to do this:

Pavlov noticed that his laboratory dogs salivated before their food arrived - he devised an experiment to see if he could make them salivate to different stimuli. He called his training method 'conditioning'.

Pavlov started with the natural, unconditioned response of salivating to the natural unconditioned stimulus of food. Salivation is a reflex response - it happens automatically without the need for thought.

Here's how Pavlov's conditioning worked...

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The light bulb is at first a meaningless, unconditioned stimulus to the dog. After repeated trials, the dog learns by association that the light means food. Eventually, the light is flashed without food, and the dog salivates; the light became a conditioned stimulus. Salivating at the flashing light was a conditioned response.

Operant conditioning means learning to perform certain actions to receive rewards or avoid punishment.

Behavioural Therapies

The principles of classical and operant conditioning theory have been applied to humans in various types of behavioural therapy for mental disorders.

A summary of some behavioural therapies is coming up next. See if you know what should be written in each box - then click on the spaces to reveal a brief summary:

Behavioural Therapy: What happens? Disorders treated: Ethical issues and effectiveness:
Flooding Maximum Exposure to most feared situation until fear subsides. Some types of specific phobia, for example, fear of heights. Successful for many phobias. If not completed, anxiety may be made worse!
Systematic Desensitisation Gradual exposure to feared situation or object while relaxed. Specific phobias and anxieties such as unrealistic fear of criticism or failure. 'Homework' tasks, in situations person feels anxious in, essential if situation cannot be recreated.
Aversion Therapy Unwanted behaviour is associated with unpleasant stimulus - feeling sick or electric shock.

Some types of addiction, for example, smoking, overeating, alcoholism.

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Deliberate pain and discomfort inflicted. Most notoriously, used in past to try to change sexuality of homosexuals and transvestites.
Token Economy Tokens given for 'good' behaviour. Tokens saved up and exchanged for reward later. Used to shape behaviour of patients in mental hospitals. Successful in socialising disturbed patients. Can break down outside institutional setting.
Modelling Person gradually learns from others who are relaxed in situations that normally make them feel anxious. Some phobias, for example, of snakes or dogs, and some other anxieties, for example, used in sex therapy. Successful in treating phobias and socialising disturbed patients both inside and outside hospital environments - therapists modelling behaviour.

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