An Explanation and Evaluation of the Behaviorists Approach to Psychotherapy

Topics: Behaviorism, Classical conditioning, Operant conditioning Pages: 9 (3332 words) Published: May 12, 2006
An explanation and evaluation the Behaviorist approach to Psychotherapy. In this essay I shall explain what the behaviorist approach is. In order to do this I shall be examining the historical perspective of behaviourism. I shall need to evaluate the behaviourist approach and it's effectiveness in the treatment of the whole person and shall briefly compare it to some of the other approaches to treatment. The fundamental approach of behaviourism and psychoanalytical therapy seems diametrically opposed and it will be interesting to see how some therapists are able to incorporate both of these approaches into their treatment techniques. Behaviourism is defined in the Collin's Dictionary as" the guiding principle of certain psychologists who hold that the proper basis of psychological science is the objective study of behaviour under stimuli". What does this mean? We shall come back to this statement.

Psychotherapy is defined in the Collin's Dictionary as "The treatment of disease by psychological means". The definition of psychotherapeautic is even more interesting " The treatment of disease by psychological means. The treatment of disease by psychological or hypnotic means". It is interesting that here we come to a definition of treatment using hypnosis. This essay is being written with hypnosis and hypnotherapy in mind as the main tool to use treatment approaches in therapy. In fact modern psychotherapy often doesn't use hypnosis at all. I feel a more rational definition to behaviourism to be " Techniques to change behaviour; without evaluating/using any analysis of how the problem arrived, why it might be there - and what might be behind it; without any need to understand or delve at the source of the difficulty." It might be fairer to describe behaviourism as "1.The evaluation of the individual in his environment in order to determine what factors around him are responsible for his problem, and 2. manipulation of the environment or the individual in order to ameliorate the difficulty." Pavlov was the first person who is noted as examining behaviour. He was a Russian physiologist who is noted as the father of 'Classical conditioning'. Outlining the Stimulus and response connection, teaching us about an unconditioned stimulus, paired with a conditioned stimulus resulting in a conditioned response. He initially worked with dogs as his subjects. He also taught us about 'extinction , when the conditioned response decreases, and 'spontaneous recovery' when it returns later. Classical conditioning can also be generalised, similar stimuli, creating similar responses. The ability to distinguish the two he called 'discrimination'. Pavlov was also able to create a neurotic dog. This illustrates discrimination. When the two stimuli he wanted the dogs to respond to were too similar the dog became neurotic as it couldn't distinguish between the two. It tried desperately to free itself from it's harness, it whined, growled, barked frantically and lost control of it's bowels. It had become emotionally unstable. J.B.Watson was the first theorist in the 1900's to advance the behaviourist approach and said "give me a dozen healthy infants - well formed - and my own specific world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any specialist he might select." Watson showed the strength of classical conditioning, by conditioning Little Albert to be afraid of a white rat. He did this by making loud noises every time the child saw the rat, In fact the conditioning was so strong that he then generalised his fear to all furry, white objects. Skinner took conditioning many steps further by outlining the process he called operant conditioning. B.F. Skinner demonstrated how learning takes place and once proposed that all learning (i.e. all psychology) could be explained by the acquisition of learning by operant conditioning. More recently it is considered as being one of the many ways in which...
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