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The advantages and disadvantages of the behaviorist approach to mental disorders

The behavioral approach to psychology emphasizes the effects that environmental stimuli can have on a person. Because of the importance of the environment, behavioral psychologists concentrate on the process of learning and any lasting change that occurs as a result of any experience. The origins of behaviorism can be traced back to a paper written by John Watson entitled, ‘Psychology as the behaviorist views it’ (Watson 1913). He emphasized the importance of the environment in our behavior and there are three central ideas behind the theory. There is an emphasis on observable responses and environmental stimuli, a rejection to any concepts that are not evident from direct observation and a focus on experience and learning as the fundamental basis behind understanding behavior. Behaviorists see people as biological organisms that are innately capable of responding to the environment in which they live. Humans like many other organisms are capable of performing a wide range of complex responses; however these are seen as combinations of simpler responses in behaviorism.

Tags: Behaviorist approach to psychology, Behaviorist approaches, The behaviorist perspective, Mental psychology, Education psychology

[...] Behaviorists also prefer using scientific methods because of their emphasis on the observable aspects of the environment The behaviorist theory assumes that human behavior should be studied using the same methods as physical science. It also assumes that psychology should only study that which can be directly seen and therefore anything that cannot be observed is not worth studying, as it cannot be used to explain human behavior (Slife and Williams 1995). The behavioral model for abnormality assumes that all mental disorders are caused by behavior problems, which have been learnt through unfortunate classical or operant conditioning. [...]


[...] Behavioral methods are used frequently by clinical psychologists and within the NHS as the treatments only last a few months compared to those of psychodynamic therapies, which usually last several years. Behavioral methods are also very effective in group therapy as the treatment is structured, the goals are clear, and clinical progress is measurable. The effectiveness of behavioral techniques is also quite high which researchers have shown. McGrath et al. (1990) say that systematic desensitization is effective for 75 per cent of people with specific phobias. [...]

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