The Theory Of The Final Behaviourist Therapy

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Lastly, the final behaviourist therapy would be systematic desensitisation and this was introduced by Joseph Wolpe. According to Wolpe (1965) cited by (Gross, 1999, p.1) ‘if a response inhibitory of anxiety can be made to occur in the presence of anxiety-evoking stimuli it will weaken the bond between these stimuli and the anxiety.’ This quote basically states that it would be humanly impossible to experience two opposite emotions at the same time (e.g. fear and relaxation.) Systematic desensitisation (SD) is where the patient themselves would make a hierarchy of fear, including the fear itself (conditioned stimulus). This would go from the least fearful to the most fearful. For example, a person with a fear of spiders… the lowest rank on the hierarchy would be the word ‘spider’ written on a piece of paper whereas the highest rank would be to hold a spider. The patients would have a series of contact with the stimuli and keep moving up to the next step of the hierarchy when the current level they are on can be completed without feeling any anxiety. Sometimes this was very difficult to conduct as Wolpe, sometimes had to use imagination to his patients as their phobias were too complex. But, findings show that systematic desensitisation is extremely effective for phobias with a success rate between 60% -90%. Ranchman and Wilson (1980) believe SD is very effective but is more effective for the treatment on smaller phobias such as animals and blood. Overall, the behaviourist
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