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Classical and Operant Conditioning

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Describe and Evaluate One Therapy Based on Classical Conditioning and One Therapy Based on Operant Conditioning. Behavioural therapies emerged in the 1950s. The main assumption of the behavioural view is that abnormal behaviour is acquired in the same way as normal behaviour, through the principles of Classical and Operant Conditioning. Behavioural therapy is usually targets at specific, well-delineated anxiety disorders such as phobias and compulsions. One therapy that is used through Classical Conditioning is Systematic Desensitisation. Classical Conditioning is learning that occurs through association. Systematic Desensitisation is used for people with phobias as it de-conditions phobias using relaxation and gradual contact. Individuals might learn that their feared stimulus was not so fearful after all if they could only re-experience the feared stimulus - but the anxiety it creates blocks such recovery. This is overcome by introducing the feared stimulus gradually. In this type of behavioural therapy, based on the principle of counter-conditioning, a fearful person imagines a series of progressively more fearsome situations while he or she is deeply relaxed. The responses of relaxation and fear are incompatible, and the fear is eventually dispelled. ...read more.


this is where patients are exposed to the objects or situations that trigger obsessions and are then prohibited from engaging in their usual compulsive response. All behavioural therapies have their roots in learning theory, which has its own roots in experiments with non-human animals. Wolpe's (1958) initial research was with cats. He created a phobia by placing them in cages and administering repeated electric shocks. He could then reduce their learned anxiety response by placing food near a cage that was similar to the original. The act of eating apparently diminished the anxiety response; the cats could gradually be placed in cages more and more similar to the original cages without symptoms of anxiety. Human anxiety may not always respond in the same way. Systematic Desensitisation did not cure the phobia of one woman treated for a fear of insects (Wolpe 1973). It turned out that her husband, with whom she had not been getting along with was nicknamed after an insect. Her fear was therefore not the result of conditioning but a means of representing her marital problems. ...read more.


O'Leary et al (1969) had no success witgh a behaviour modification programme byt found that a Token Economy system reduced disruptive behaviour in 5 out of 7 children studied. Token Economies are important because, even though the introduction of chemotherapy in the 1950s meant that mental patients could live in community settings, this transition to community living required more than symptom reduction; living skills also had to be improved. (Lecomte et al, 2000). Most studies do not indicate whether desirable behaviours continue when tokens stop or whether the learning that takes place is an institutional setting generalizes to other settings. Furthermore, there is the issue of cure. Behaviour may change, which helps an individual to conduct a more normal life, but the mental illness remains (Comer, 2002). The method is expensive and time consuming: maintaining it required intensive training and concentrated effort, whereas simpler behaviour modification techniques may be just as effective and easier. Finally there is the problem of establishing effective rewards. To be successful, these must be tailored to the individual. Like behaviour modification programmes, Token Economy is manipulative; Corrigan (1995) claimed that they are also abusive and humiliating. Withholding privileges and basic rights has been rules unethical by US courts (Emmelkamp, 1994). ...read more.

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3 star(s)

Overall, there is a lot of good material in this essay and it is accurately described. There is a lack of balance though - too much description of the therapies and not enough commentary linking the brief evaluative points together into a discussion. The structure is a little weak and repetitive in the first half. So 3 stars.

Marked by teacher Jo Wilcox 10/04/2012

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