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Outline and evaluate behavioural therapies to treat mental disorders.

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Introduction

"Some Psychologists claim that behavioural therapies are unethical and of limited value because they treat symptoms rather than causes" Discuss behavioural therapies for treating mental disorders with reference to those such as those raised in the quote above (30 marks) The behavioural model of abnormality makes a number of assumptions in relation to the causes of abnormal behaviour. Firstly the model assumes that inappropriate behaviour is learned and therefore it can be 'unlearned' and more appropriate behaviours learnt instead. Two ways behaviourists believe that behaviour is learnt is through classical and operant conditioning, and as a result various therapies have stemmed from these methods of learning. From classical conditioning, where behaviour is learnt through association the therapies such as implosion, flooding, aversion therapy and systematic desensitisation have been developed. Implosion and flooding are similar techniques used with anxiety-producing disorders. Both therapies expose the client to the feared experience but in slightly different ways. ...read more.

Middle

The therapist designs a hierarchy to work through with the patient with easier tasks to overcome at the bottom and the ultimate goal at the top. They patient and therapist then systematically work through this hierarchy. From operant conditioning the therapy of token economies has been developed. A token economy changes behaviour by reinforcing good behaviour with 'tokens'. The token is a secondary reinforcer, which is later exchanged for a primary reinforcer, for example a chocolate bar or other treat. These behavioural therapies are appropriate for a number of disorders, in particular anxiety disorders such as phobias and OCD. Token economies are also particularly suited to treating eating disorders. Flooding and Implosion however are not suitable for children. A benefit of both classical and operant conditioning therapies, are that they are short in duration making them cheaper and more accessible to people unlike treatments such as psychoanalysis under the psychodynamic model which take a long time. ...read more.

Conclusion

In token economies however patients have very little control over their therapies. This raises ethical issues as informed consent is not achieved for token economies, instead they are enforced with or without the patients consent. Token economies are also open to abuse and can be deemed as a form of social control. Classical conditioning therapies also raise ethical issues in terms of putting their patients at risk of emotional harm. Other problems with classical conditioning therapies include the fact that some patients may not have a vivid enough imagination for flooding, and social desensitization may be difficult to arrange and control, whereas token economies are practical as they can be done anywhere. A problem with token economies though, is that changes are due to external rewards and not an innate desire to change and so if the rewards are removed the positive behaviour may cease. Finally debate will also continue whether the treatments provided by the behavioural model only treat the symptoms and not the causes, and if only the symptoms are treated, does it matter? ...read more.

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