Aversion Therapy - Behavioral Psychology - Psychologist World

Aversion Therapy

Aversion therapy uses the behavioral approach principles that new behavior can be 'learnt' in order to overcome addictions, obsessions or, as demonstrated in Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange, violent behavior.

Patients undergoing aversion therapy are made to think of the undesirable experience that they enjoy, for example, a violent person might be shown images of violent crime, or an alcoholic might be made to drink, while drugs or electric shocks are administered. In theory, the patient will, over time, come to associate their addiction with the negativity of electric shocks or seizures.

Uses of Aversion Therapy
  • Habits
  • Smoking
  • Alcoholism
  • Gambling
  • Violence
  • Homosexuality (historically)

Success of Aversion Therapy

Aversion therapy's long-term success in treating patients is questionable; patients may appear to be treated by therapy, but once out of the view of doctors, where the deterrent drugs or electric shocks are removed, they may feel able to return to their addictions or undesirable behavior.

Criticisms of Aversion Therapy

Aversion therapy has endured much criticism in previous decades in its use in abusing patients. At a time when homosexuality was considered by some to be a mental illness, gay people were made to undergo aversion therapy for their lifestyles. A number of fatalities have also occured during aversion therapy.

A Clockwork Orange

Aversion therapy was utilised in Anthony Burgess' 1962 book A Clockwork Orange, which was later adapted as a film by Stanley Kubrick. The story, set in a dystopia of violent crime, looks at the treatment of a young Alex de Large, whose is offered freedom from a long jail sentence if he is prepared to undergo aversion therapy for his violence. De Large is shown a series of violent images, whilst being given ECT and drugs so that he would associate violence with personal suffering.

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