Guide Aversion Therapy

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In a typical application, a person is encouraged to shock themselves using a portable battery operated electric shock device, usually attached to the arm or leg while thinking about engaging in problem behaviors. Various tools, pictures and other props associated with problem behavior may be used as part of the therapy to make the in vitro imagined experience more real.

Aversion therapy

Shock levels are set so as to be uncomfortable, even painful, but not intensely so and certainly not damaging or dangerous. Multiple trials associating the shock and the problem behavior are administered.

Aversion/Conversion Therapy AHS

If the therapy works, the shock recipient comes to feel uncomfortable when thinking about engaging in the problem behavior, and desire to do so is lessened or extinguished. Aversion therapies in general, and shock therapy in particular, are potentially dangerous techniques that should not be practiced on one's own. A professional therapist or doctor, experienced with these techniques should be involved. The equipment used to produce shocks should be professionally manufactured.

Most important of all, the patient experiencing shocks or other aversive stimulation should be in control of how much pain he or she experiences at all times. Aversion therapy should never be coercive.

Aversion Therapy by Electric Shock: a Simple Technique

A major reason why aversion therapy is not a mainstream therapy approach today is that it has a large potential for abuse. Apart from the dangers inherent in inducing pain or discomfort via mechanical, medical or electrical means , a whole other area of concern revolves around whether the "problem behavior" that is to be conditioned away is actually a problem in the first place.

Some problems, such as homosexuality, are culturally defined. Conservative religious groups tend to view homosexuality as an abomination, but scientifically informed professions view it as a perfectly normal variation of human sexuality. Whether or not homosexuality is a problem behavior thus reduces to an epistemological question then; a question of how you go about determining what is true and what is false. The authors of this document unequivocally side with the scientific position with regards to homosexuality and urge you to do the same. Homosexuality is a biologically-based and normal variation of human sexuality.

It is inappropriate, unethical and inhumane to use aversive conditioning procedures on homosexual human beings for purposes of attempting to change their sexual orientation. For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, the MentalHelp. Our helpline is offered at no cost to you and with no obligation to enter into treatment. With that in mind, would you like to learn about some of the best options for treatment in the country? Dealing With Reward-Motivated Behavior: Chapter 1 - Self-help: Chapter 4 - Meeting Basic Needs.

Chapter 5 - Changing Behavior And Thought. Chapter 6 - Changing Your Mood. Chapter 7 - Changing Your Knowledge. Like many forms of therapy, it originated decades ago and has developed and evolved to become quite different from its original form. Nonetheless, misperceptions persist about aversion therapy. This is not helped by the barbaric portrayal of it in films like A Clockwork Orange , or its controversial and dangerous use in conversion therapy discussed below.

5 Examples of Aversion Therapy - Online Psychology Degree Guide

We hope to give you a more nuanced understanding of aversion therapy and whether it can help you or your loved one. Aversion therapy is a therapy technique that works by conditioning the mind to associate undesirable behaviors with negative stimuli. Aversion therapy is anchored in the approach to psychology known as behaviorism. Behaviorists consider human behavior to be something learned from the external environment. The person learns to behave in certain ways based on two types of conditioning.

Classical conditioning refers to learning by association. Operant conditioning refers to learning by positive reinforcement reward or negative reinforcement punishment. While it is generally accepted that certain behaviors are inherent in the physical makeup of the species, behaviorism asserts that even these behaviors can be changed, or at least averted, through external forms of conditioning. Aversion therapy causes change by replacing positive associations with a behavior with negative associations.

Aversion therapy mainly uses operant conditioning, averting the undesired behavior by engineering negative reinforcement. In the past, this was mainly done using physically harmful stimuli, such as shock therapy and medication. These days, it is becoming more common for therapists to guide patients in visualizing negative consequences in association with the behavior.

Another type of aversion therapy is used to relieve symptoms of certain phobias. The structure of an aversion therapy session is very different today than it was in the past. In addition to physical reinforcements, visualization is becoming more common. Some more extreme forms of physical reinforcement are no longer used. Modern aversion therapy sessions include both physical and non-physical techniques. Electric shock therapy is still commonly used in treating addictions.

It works particularly well in helping people to stop smoking. The therapist might also help a patient visualize negative consequences, such as vomiting related to alcohol consumption, or severe illness connected to smoking. This is called covert sensitization. In order for covert sensitization to be effective, the patient needs to be particularly motivated. Flooding is a form of aversion therapy that helps patients with phobias negate the negative consequences they associate with the subject of their fear.

For example, a person suffering from claustrophobia may be locked in a small space for an extended period of time. People suffering from PTSD may be taken to the location where the trauma occurred, or guided to visualize the situation over and over again. There is evidence that aversion therapy works, but it is often called into question or criticized.

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This is for a number of reasons, the first being that studies done on its efficacy have not been entirely rigorous. But the problem with measuring the efficacy of aversion therapy goes beyond questions about methodology. One of the fundamental difficulties comes from differences in opinions as to what to measure. Critics assert that measuring whether aversion therapy stops a certain behavior is moot as long as the underlying motivations still exist.

Those motivations might simply be expressed through other unhealthy behaviors, or lead to deeper problems. Measuring whether aversion therapy has an effect on these motivations is difficult, if not impossible. We will discuss the possible negative consequences of not dealing with these motivations below.


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Even if we gauge its effectiveness by the simple measure of whether it stops the behavior, risks of relapse bring these measurements into question. Because aversion therapy is used most commonly in treating addiction, relapse remains a possibility long after the behavior is stopped. The question becomes how many subjects relapse, and over how long a time period we measure this.

All addiction treatments share this problem and it is not just aversion therapy which is subject to this criticism. On a very basic level, there is evidence that aversion therapy can prevent undesirable behaviors, including addiction, and that it has positive results even when taking relapse into account. Because aversion therapy is less common these days, much of the evidence dates back to the mid to late twentieth century.

Aversion therapy can be used to stop certain compulsive behaviors like nail-biting, skin-picking, and hair-pulling. In these cases, the therapy can comprise simple techniques, such as putting unpleasant tasting substances on the fingernails. Alternatively, electric shock treatment is used, and while evidence for its effectiveness is scarce, what evidence there is shows positive results for these behaviors. People who wish to stop smoking may try aversion therapy. This is much higher than the success rates of other methods of quitting smoking. There are certainly limitations to its effectiveness, but treatment centers which do use this therapy offer it as part of a more holistic treatment approach.


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