Aversion therapy is a form of behavior modification that employs unpleasant and sometimes painful stimuli in an effort to help a patient unlearn socially unacceptable or harmful behavior. The first recorded use of aversion therapy was in 1930 for the treatment of alcoholism, but by the 1950s and 1960s it had become one of the more popular methods used to "cure" sexual deviation, including homosexuality and sex offending.
Of the handful of methods psychoanalysts employed to treat sex offending, aversion therapy was arguably the most inhumane. Treatment involved presenting offenders with images of conventionally attractive targets geared toward there preferences. Sometimes patients were asked to provide these images themselves, and were encouraged to submit photographs of their idea of attractive. Aversion therapy involved projecting the image of the inappropriate sexual object onto a screen, and administering a noxious stimulus at the same time. It was believed that by replacing sexual arousal with noxious stimuli, the patient would rid himself of their sexual deviation and develop "normal" desires.
Initially, aversion therapy employed chemical emetics. Apormorphine was the most common drug used. Injected intramuscularly, it caused nausea and vomiting. Timing the effects of the drugs with the presentation of images proved difficult, however, and patients often built up a natural resistance to the drug. Chemicals were soon replaced with electric shock since it was perceived to be easier to control.
Ideally, aversion therapy was administered two or more times a day over a two-week period. According to the literature, many believed that physical and mental fatigue improved the chances of a cure. However, the regularity and intensity of treatment typically depended on whether or not the patient was residing in a hospital or prison or was being treated on an out-patient basis.
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