Behavior Therapy Research Paper

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Behavior Therapy is generally an approach of psychotherapy which aims to treat any sort of psychopathology to eliminate undesired behaviors in a patient or subject (Masters, et. al., 1987). This type of psychotherapy is based on the learning theory. Behavior therapy generally attempts to help in solving certain behavioral problems; this type of therapy has a long history. In the early first century in Rome, Pliny the Elder was known to try to cure alcoholics by putting putrid spiders in their drinking glasses. In today's behavior therapy, this would be known as aversive conditioning (Masters, et. al., 1987). During the eighteenth century, a boy whom was known as the "Wild Boy of Aveyron" was taught how to speak with maneuvers; today, this would be known as positive reinforcement and/or withholding of positive reinforcement. Alexander Maconchi of the nineteenth century whom was a prison warden at the time used a point-system or a token economy as a basis of getting inmates to follow prison rules (Masters, et. al., 1987). During around the same time a French physician used maneuvers to treat a case of obsession thoughts with approaches which would be known today as thought stoppage or reciprocal inhibition (Masters, et. al., 1987). However, as a field of health improvement, behavior therapy is less than a century old. The direct history of behavior therapy is interconnected and interwoven with the history of psychology. Psychology was a result from the intellectual revolutions of a group of European philosophers. They abandoned philosophy and took an open mind to the sciences in psychology which is the science of the structure of mind and consciousness (Masters, et. al., 1987).

Reinforcement Therapy

This type of operant conditioning in behavioral analysis in a patient or subject was the process of increase the probabilities of a behavior (Michael, 1975). This is done by the delivery of a certain stimulus which is done straight after the behavior; this is called a response.

Reinforcement therapy may be something most people are familiar with; this approach is very simple and can be seen used in a number of classroom settings (Michael, 1975). This type of approach works in a variety of situations and has very basic ideas. The reinforcement therapy really boils down to one main point, this is: consequences influence behavior. This simply means that people will do things because they are aware that something will follow. Therefore, depending on the type of consequence you present, people will tend to produce certain behaviors and avoid others. There are generally three basic principles seen in reinforcement therapy; these are known as the rules of consequence. These are generally the logical outcomes which occur after certain consequences:

1. Consequences which give Rewards increase a behavior.

2. Consequences which give Punishments decrease a behavior.

3. Consequences which give neither Rewards nor Punishments extinguish a behavior (Michael, 1975)

These rules are very simple and they provide a guideline on how reinforcement will influence actions seen in an individual (Michael, 1975). If you want to increase a behavior, present a reward. If a decrease in behavior is needed, present a punishment. If the behavior needs to be extinguished, provide no consequence or simply ignore the behavior. The reinforcement therapy is of a functional theory. This means that all components which are being used are defined by their function, or how they work rather than how they are structured (Michael, 1975).

There are numerous types of reinforcements, this was articulated by B.F. Skinner who had come up with the major theoretical constructs of reinforcement and behaviorism (Michael, 1975). He defined reinforces as according to the responses given to them and evaluated the strength of each response based on a certain criteria. Reinforcement therapy is of a motivation theory. This simply means that behavior which is reinforced will be repeated and behavior which is not is least likely to be repeated (Michael, 1975).

Skinner had discussed many types of reinforcement; under these are the categories of positive and negative reinforcements (Michael, 1975). Positive reinforcement is seen to be superior to negative reinforcement which is punishment in altering behavior. Skinner found that punishment was not as simple as the opposite of positive reinforcement. This was because positive reinforcement was seen to be of lasting effects in an individual in terms of behavioral modification; whereas punishment only shows temporary effects and may present some detrimental side effects.

Positive reinforcement is simply seen as an increase in the future of frequency of a behavior. This is done through the addition of consequences which immediately follow a response. This can be seen as when someone is trying to condition his or her dog to sit or do a trick, when the dog successfully follows instruction, it will be rewarded with a treat (Michael, 1975). This is seen as a type of positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is also seen in a lot of classroom settings where children are rewarded according to their good work through recognition, praises and rewards such as stickers or stamps.

Negative reinforcement is seen as the increase in the future frequency of a behavior due to a consequence which is the removal of something (Michael, 1975). This is not to be confused with punishment. An example of this can be seen where something is removed instead of given. An example can be if a mouse presses a button to avoid being shocked. The shock is removed and provides relief. There are two variations seen with this type of reinforcement. Avoidance conditioning is something which occurs when a behavior presents an aversive stimulus from the start of its application (Michael, 1975). Escape conditioning occurs within an individual when the behavior removes aversive stimulus which has already started.

Shaping is something which involves reinforcement (Michael, 1975). This is when reinforcing is successive, and increasingly accurate approximations of a response according to the trainer, teacher or evaluator are seen. This can be seen in training someone to do an action, the response reinforcement should become progressive to achieve the desired behavior.

The Premack Principle is generally the belief that more probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors (Michael, 1975). This suggests that when a person wants to perform a certain activity, he or she will perform a less desirable activity to get at the more desirable activity. The activities then become the reinforcers. In a classroom setting, children can be seen performing a less desirable activity if they are told that a more desirable activity will follow after their completion of their initial activity.

Consequential Deceleration Therapy

This type of therapy, with its seemingly long and complex name, is given to those interventions which are known to reduce types of behaviors and target behavior problems which can be noted in individuals (Walker, 2004). This is given that all behaviors are maintained by reinforcement. When reinforcements are withheld from an individual, an extinction is seen to occur where the behavior is diminished. The classic example which is usually given is seen in a baby; when a baby cries and attention is given to him or her, the behavior is maintained by the parental attention given. When the parent constantly checks in on the baby to see if the child is okay, the behavior is said to be encouraged (Walker, 2004). However, when the parent decides to leave the child to cry and withholds any attention or quick resolution to the problems within a few days an extinction is said to be seen. Although, this is not true in all cases, most have said that the crying will get worse if this is done.

Extinction is generally one of the processes in which an underlying of facing your fears is seen (Walker, 2004). Remaining in a fearful situation while the fear supposedly peaks and subsides at the same time a being prevented from normal avoidance behavior can lead to significant changes. This is known as exposure therapy. A type of aversion known as Physical aversion falls under consequential deceleration therapy. This is when a consequence after a behavior is applied. This can be seen as punishments such as rubber bands snapping at the wrists, foul odors, electric shocks; these were all used to treat maladaptive behaviors in the past such as nail biting, hair pulling and self-mutilation (Walker, 2004). These are however not used today.

Deceleration behavior therapy is the preferred strategy for decelerating an undesirable behavior and is to reinforce the acceleration of a targeted behavior. According to Walker (2004):

"Consequential deceleration therapies either (1) eliminate reinforcement behavior (extinction and time out from positive reinforcement), or (2) make the consequences of the behavior undesirable (response cost, over correction, and physically aversive consequences" (qtd. Walker, 2004)

Eliminate reinforcement behavior is seen as extinction. Only in one out of every four cases does extinction experience an increase in the undesired behavior. However, there are potential problems with this method and it is seen when extinction is that the target behavior may recur temporarily after it has been eliminated, which is knows as spontaneous recovery.…[continue]

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