What is Aversion Therapy? Aversion Therapy is a type of behavioral therapy employed when one wishes to cease a behavior, particularly an addictive behavior, through a therapeutic process. The strategy behind aversion therapy is simple; one merely learned to associated the unwanted behavior with an unpleasant stimulus. In this way, aversion therapy is a form of conditioning in which the patient will eventually no longer enjoy the associated behavior because it brings about new feelings of dread or unhappiness.
Aversion Therapy Applications A very common example of applied aversion therapy may be seen in treating unwanted alcohol associated behavior. If an alcoholic enters aversion therapy to end their alcoholism, they may be administered a medication which will make that patient feel nauseous while they intake stimuli pertaining to familiar alcoholic beverages. While the patient smells, tastes, sees these beverages they will wish to vomit. After a few sessions of aversion therapy, the alcoholic will have learned to associated unpleasant bodily feeling with alcohol and should be less likely to consume alcohol in the future.
A controversial but popular use of aversion therapy is upon those who are mentally challenged and who would otherwise participate in destructive behavior. If the destructive behavior’s potential consequences are more dangerous than the risks associated with administered electric shocks, a mentally challenged person may enter a type of aversion therapy in which they receive shocks whenever they perform the unwanted behavior.
Aversion Therapy Drawbacks One obvious drawback to aversion therapy is that it requires the patient to experience enough discomfort to counterbalance extreme desire or repeated behavior. Thus, it may be assumed the discomfort level may be considerable. Another potential problem is encouraging the patient to continue the aversion therapy until it has reached it’s full duration, as stopping midway will have amounted to pain which will ultimately be useless because the association between the behavior and unpleasant experience will not have been solidified.
Gerow, Joshua R., Roddrick Chatmon, and Don Crews. Basic Psychology. New York: Custom Pub., 2009. Print.