How different psychological therapies have been applied to their approach

Essay by alexede94 November 2014

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2. Outline/Describe how the …approach has been applied in … therapy. (12)


Aversion therapy is a form of psychological therapy that uses conditioning procedures to break the association between undesirable behaviour and a pleasant sensation. The patient is exposed to the undesirable stimulus while at the same time being subjected to some form of discomfort. This conditioning is aimed at causing the patient to associate the undesirable stimulus with unpleasant sensations.

Aversion therapy used to treat an alcoholic would follow this procedure:

the patient is given a drug that makes him feel very sick. The drug is the unconditioned stimulus and the sickness is the unconditioned response.

the patient is then given alcohol and the drug at the same time, so alcohol and feeling sick are paired together.

the pairing of alcohol and the drug is repeated until the patient associates alcohol with feeling very sick.

The alcohol is now the conditioned stimulus, and feeling sick is the conditioned response. If the conditioning is successful, the patent will no longer be able to drink alcohol.

Aversion therapy can take many forms. For example, a child who bites his nails may have them painted with an unpleasant substance to discourage biting them. A violent person might be shown images of violent crime while being given electric shocks. In this way, new behaviour can be 'learned' to replace bad habits, undesirable behaviour, addictions and obsessions.

The long-term effectiveness of aversion therapy is questionable. The therapy may be successful at first but when patients are out of sight of the therapist, and the drugs or electric shocks are no longer used, patients may return to the original undesirable behaviour. In other words, the association between the undesirable behaviour and the unpleasant association is extinguished.

Ethical questions have been...