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Discuss the extent to which behavioural therapies may be considered effective in the treatment of abnormal behaviour.

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SAMPLE ESSAY ON BEHAVIOUR THERAPIES Discuss the extent to which behavioural therapies may be considered effective in the treatment of abnormal behaviour. The basic assumption of behavioural therapies is that all behaviour is learned & can be unlearned. Maladaptive behaviours are the same as any others. Behaviour is learned through classical conditioning, where a reflex response comes to be associated with a neutral stimulus so that a new stimulus-response link is formed. An example of this can be seen in the case of Little Albert, studied by Watson & Rayner. Albert was shown a white rat and had no fear. Then on several occasions when he was shown the rat he was also exposed to a loud noise which would create an innate fear response. After a number of trials, the sight of the rat alone made Albert jump & this generalised to other white furry things, such as Watson's beard. ...read more.


Then the patient is asked to imagine the least fearful thing while relaxing at the same time. It is not possible to experience 2 conflicting emotions simultaneously, so eventually the fear is replaced by relaxation & this conditioned response is paired with the feared stimulus. Then the patient imagines the next most fearful thing in the hierarchy and so on, until the fear is gone. If at any time the patient feels anxious. He/she is reminded to stop & regain composure & relax. It is possible that SD works for reasons other than unlearning. For example, it can be explained in terms of cognitive restructuring, i.e. patients do not form new associations but change the way they think about the feared object. Any reference to thinking is beyond behaviourism. However, cognitive-behavioural therapy is a more recent development of behaviour therapy which combines elements of both. ...read more.


It is possible to explain the success of token economies in ways other than through conditioning theory. It could be that the system allows for more careful structuring of the therapeutic situation & this leads to improvements. Recovery may also be due to a general increase in attention or even more emotional care from nursing staff. The therapy raises ethical concerns because behaviour manipulation is involved. Someone has to decide what constitutes a desirable behaviour (the one to be acquired) & what is undesirable. There are general issues relating to evaluating a therapy, such as what constitutes a cure. Just removing certain symptoms, which is the goal of behaviour therapies, does not mean that a problem is solved. It may well be that an underlying problem remains & will soon be expressed through other symptoms. Behaviourists assume that there are no underlying behaviours that need concern us; there are only symptoms. If they are removed, the patient is cured. ...read more.

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