Dr. Joseph Wolpe

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Dr. Joseph Wolpe, born in 1917, he was a South African Psychiatrist, and during wartime he worked in a military psychiatric hospital. There he observed soldiers who mentally suffered from what they went through and observed while in war, better known today as post-traumatic stress syndrome. Dr. Wolpe decided to dedicate his work at the time, towards finding more effective means of dealing with this mental problem. Dr. Wolpe also founded the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy and the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. (Source 1) (Source 3)

Dr. Wolpe’s understanding of mental illness may be best described when he wrote in, The Practice of Behavior Therapy that, “behavior therapy is an applied science, in every way parallel to other modern technologies, and in particular those that constitute modern medical therapeutics.” (Source 2) Thus this essay will describe Dr. Wolpe, a theorist in the realm of cognitive behavior therapy.

Dr. Wolpe believed that since some phobias could be, “learned through classical conditioning,” (Text book pg.74) then fears and phobias are essentially learned and thus consequently can be unlearned. This is the basic concept that he uses for not only understanding the illness but also for treatment. Thus cognitive behavior therapy essentially entails innovative forms of thinking, acting, and feelings using different, research-based techniques. (Text book pg. 74)

His invention for treatment was based on the idea of breaking the association between stimulus and response. For example someone whose phobia may of spiders, he used the idea of dividing the line between the fear what stimulating it and how the individual responds to it for his research in the subject. It is known as systematic desensitization and in our Abnormal Psychology textbook it defines this technique as one that eliminates fears. Systematic Desensitization is comprised of three key elements: first-relaxation training that uses...
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