Aversion Therapy: Is It Effective?
Chances are you've probably heard about people using aversion therapy, not to be confused with conversion therapy, even if they didn't call it by that name. Unlike conversion therapy, which conversion therapy statistics show to be harmful and ineffective, aversion therapy can be beneficial for everyone. This form of therapy can take many forms, from home remedies to stop nail biting to medications to overcome alcohol addiction. For many, it's a last-ditch effort to take control of their lives from addictive behaviors. If you feel you're ready to put your bad habits and addictions behind you, aversion therapy is worth exploring.
What Is Aversion Therapy?
Before you can understand an aversion therapy definition, you need to know what aversion is. Aversion is a very strong dislike of something. If you're averse to something, you may be disgusted by it, fearful of it, or just plain revolted by it. Just the thought of these lifestyle behaviors makes you feel sick or uncomfortable.
While some forms of therapy rely on positive cues and stimuli to enact change, aversion therapy is a type of therapy in which you receive negative and unpleasant consequences or an undesirable stimulus when you perform the behavior that you are trying to quit. If you are addicted to something and trying to quit the addiction (trying to treat drug addiction or alcohol dependence), there are a number of therapy practices you can try to eliminate the neurobiological mechanism causing the addiction. Something you once enjoyed slowly becomes something that you never want to do again. Aversion therapy aims to give you an overwhelming aversion to not do an undesirable behavior or something you used to have the urge to do. If aversion therapy works, you put your smoking, drinking, gambling, or whatever it is, behind you. Aversive therapy is vastly different than your typical online therapy, so read on to learn more.
When you ask, "What is traditional aversion therapy?" a part of the answer lies in a combination of the science of behavioral therapy and psychotherapy. Aversion therapy is based on the science of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is a way of learning. When you associate one thing with another, you come to expect the second thing when you experience the first. This is part of something called aversive therapy or aversive conditioning.
However, eventually this conditioned response faded in a process Pavlov called extinction. Each time they heard the bell and didn't receive the meat, they learned that those two stimuli didn't necessarily go together. This is an important thing to remember when it comes to aversion therapy. More on that later.
The goal of aversion therapy is to train your mind to rejection of the substance or habit immediately, before you have a chance to feel that excitement or relief the bad habit has given you in the past. Aversion therapy can help this get accomplished in several ways.
Verbal aversion therapy, also called covert sensitization, doesn't use physical stimuli to produce the negative consequence. Instead, the therapist instructs the client to visualize something repulsive that can be associated with the behavior. For example, If the goal is to stop eating candy, the therapist might suggest that they imagine candy being covered in something disgusting.
For nail biting, you can try to do aversion therapy on your own by purchasing a special nail polish that has a horrible taste. You will come to associate that bad taste with biting your nails. The kinds of punishing consequences a therapist might suggest are only limited by the therapist's creativity and ethical considerations. However, most therapists opt for negative stimuli that have been studied by researchers leading to professional medical advice, to ensure a more predictable result.
There are many bad habits that aversion therapy can address including.
- Drinking alcohol
- Biting your nails
- Drug abuse
In the psychological profession aversion therapy must be used by a professional. Aversion therapy addresses the behavior and many believe that it fails to solve the deeper issues behind the behavior. Therefore, the current bad behavior may be replaced with a significantly worse behavior.
In addition, the research showing that aversion therapy has any long-term benefit is minimal. The different forms of aversion therapy seem to work for some people but the effect is typically short-term unless the person also receives counseling to prevent relapses. At times, the individual learns to avoid thoughts of the behavior while in the therapist's office but as soon as they leave, they know it is safe to engage in it.
Brief modern history has shown us there are a few instances of aversion therapy that are considered extremely controversial and harmful without evidence of being successful in the long term. One of these is electric shock therapy, which has been medically reviewed as dangerous in a number of research projects. In this type of aversion therapy, the therapist will give a mild electrical shock to the patient whenever they think about a certain topic or participate in a negative behavior.
Another controversial and harmful type of aversion therapy is conversion therapy targeting LGBTQ+ individuals (including lesbian and bisexual women as well as gay and bisexual men). Often conversion therapy is administered to teenage high school students. This is not considered a valid therapy method and can be very harmful to the individual it is used on. More medically reviewed information on the dangers of conversion therapy can be found in a helpful report here, where medical reviewers confirm the dangers of conversion therapy. Furthermore, since 1998, the American Psychiatric Association has opposed any psychiatric treatment, such as "reparative" or conversion therapy.
Therapists are required to have you sign a consent form before you receive aversion therapy. Many therapists prefer the solution is to have you administer the negative consequence yourself.
If it's true that aversion therapy is only a limited or short-term solution, how can you get a benefit from it and practice relapse prevention for longterm effectiveness? The best way is to have talk therapy and counseling along with the aversion therapy treatment that addresses your motivations and deeper issues besides just the negative stimulus. As you work with your counselor, you can discover the emotional pain or potential mental illness (such as alcohol use disorder, major depressive disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder) behind your compulsion or addiction. You can create a lasting change within yourself. The aversion therapy gets you started, and the therapy helps you live without the habit in the long run.
You can find a therapist in your local community to help you with ethical and medically reviewed aversion therapy treatments.
The good news is that you can have therapy wherever you like by choosing online counseling with BetterHelp. For people who tend to do the behavior mostly at home, online therapy is ideal. You may even be able to have aversion therapy at locations where the urge to do that behavior most often happens.
How do you do aversion therapy?
During the course of aversion therapy, a doctor administers a drug that causes nausea or vomiting if the person being treated drinks alcohol. They are then given alcohol to induce nausea and eventually break the habit of substance abuse. While aversion therapy is medically reviewed, the efficacy and research is a mixed bag. There are many criticisms of aversion therapy due to the fact that the strategy used can seem more punishing than beneficial. With that said, there are studies that show aversion therapy can be effective in relapse prevention and reparative therapy. Another reason for the criticism of aversion therapy is that it relies on triggering a negative response to an unpleasant stimulus. Chemical aversion, described above, involves inducing medications, but another form of aversion therapy is electrical shock or negative imagery. The history of this is also controversial considering similar techniques were used and believed to “cure homosexuality”. While this treatment has taken new meanings, it is important to recognize the emotions and feelings that might come up from someone who had a relationship with this treatment- things aren't always what they seem, and it is important to check in with others and know their relationships to various treatments and therapy.
What is the function of aversion therapy?
In essence, using electrical shocks, medication, sensory overload, or a similar strategy, a therapist will trigger a negative reaction to an unpleasant stimulus in order to break your habit. Health professionals who are a part of a psychological association are still studying the efficacy of aversion therapy, but some research shows that it is an effective form of therapy for breaking habits such as trying to quit smoking or drinking. Rather than talk therapy, this therapy takes a more neurobiological mechanism approach to the treatment of mental health. While it is a medically reviewed and studied form of therapy, professional advice is still a mixed bag in regard to whether or not it is problematic. The american psychiatric association, a medically reviewed source, acknowledges aversion therapy as an established form of treatment, but it is usually not the first type of therapy used. Find a therapist, either a part of a psychological association or from a doctor, near you and discover therapy options that may help your situation. This type of therapy can be harsh on body through aggressive products, supplements, or aversion tactics involving aggressive ingredients and symptoms. Learn more information and benefits by researching this treatment and understanding what goes into it.
What is aversive technique?
Aversive techniques are any that may be unpleasant or cause discomfort to a person when being used to alter the occurrence of a specific behavior. Perhaps the most common example is putting a child in a time out or another type of physical isolation when they have done something their parent disapproves of. Subtle forms of aversion techniques and therapy can actually be quite effective at breaking a habit, but these techniques can certainly be taken too far. In a clinical sense, aversion therapy is used to produce a negative reaction to a stimulus, such as alcohol or drugs, so that a person will eventually not crave those substances or have the thoughts. To learn more about an aversive technique, find a therapist in your area or speak with a doctor for professional advice.
What does aversion mean?
Aversion means a strong dislike towards something. If a person has an aversion to heights, for example, they very much dislike heights. As built into the name, this therapy focuses on actually creating a dislike towards a substance or idea so that the habit can be broken. Examples may include inducing sickness when exposed to alcohol or being exposed to an unpleasant smell or image when having the urge to smoke. Health professionals still debate whether or not this therapy is an effective form of treatment for mental health issues due to the fact that it relies on creating a negative reaction to stimuli.
What is control aversion?
Control-averse behavior is used to describe the negative response to exogenous control of a person’s decisions and can impede on social interactions. This can be particularly apparent in clinical psychology between a mental health therapist and a client. Undergoing behavior therapy or other types of treatment requires listening and talking with a therapist, but control-averse individuals have a harder time with this. They may reject therapy in an attempt to reestablish control in their mind, but this can be detrimental to the mental health recovery process.
What are negative effects of punishment?
The use of physical punishment has often been associated with many negative social outcomes, such as aggression, disruptive behavior, a lack of acceptance, and even crime. In behavioral psychology and mental health studies from medically reviewed sources, punishment in an extreme usually results in a negative outcome, rather than something positive. Small types of punishment, however, are used in certain forms of therapy and the efficacy of these medically reviewed therapeutic methods show some success, though this is a point of controversy. Child and adolescent punishment is constantly being studied, but the general belief is that punishment should be reframed in an effective and positive manner to reduce the potential negative effects. Literature that references american psychiatric association or mental health institutes often come to the conclusion that the negative effects of punishment most often take form on a social level.
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