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behaviour therapythe intentional alteration of human BEHAVIOUR by various techniques based on learning theory (see BEHAVIOURISM), particularly as used in clinical psychology. It rests on the premise that some problem behaviours involve faulty learning therefore can best be dealt with by relearning, i.e. retraining the individual's responses. Particular examples of this are systematic desensitization, token economies and AVERSION THERAPY.
Systematic desensitization is most usually used in the treatment of phobias (irrational fears) and involves replacing the unwanted response (fear) with a desired response (relaxation). This is done gradually (and systematically) by introducing the feared object or situation in the least frightening form to start with, while the person remains relaxed, and gradually increasing the exposure while relaxation is maintained. The reinforcer maintaining the improved responses is a sense of achievement, self-control and the possibility of a less restricted lifestyle.
Token economies are often used to control the behaviour of patients in mental hospitals or other institutions. This technique involves rewarding individuals with tokens when they perform desired behaviours, such as washing, dressing, clearing-up, being sociable, talking sensibly The tokens can then be exchanged for rewards such as days out or any other treat regarded as desirable by the patient or inmate.