behavioural therapy

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Behavioural therapy is a psychological treatment in which specific disruptive symptoms or behaviours are ameliorated by a strategy of active measures designed to modify the processes which maintain them.

It was developed in the late 1950's, initially by the application of learning theory to the treatment of a variety of neurotic symptoms. Studies of animals had revealed that various forms of behaviour could be conditioned and maintained by particular patterns of stimulus and reward, for example Pavlov's early experiments with dogs showed how dogs were conditioned to salivate in response to a bell which originally had been sounded at the same moment as the appearance of food - classical conditioning; Skinner showed that animals repeated behaviours that were rewarded in some way such as the presentation of food - operant conditioning.

Last reviewed 01/2018

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