Behavior Therapy in the 80's: Evolution, Exploitation, and the Existential Issue

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need for consideration of personality variables in assessment & matching of treatment modality to clinical problem in behavior therapy


Discusses issues crucial to the advancement of behavior therapy as a procedure for the treatment of clinical problems. Although behaviorists have long discounted personality variables, the issue of personality can benefit clinicians and clients in another way. Individual personalities can be seen as revolving around a set point, which represents a hypothetical designation of an individual's particular level of psychological functioning. Three corollaries based on this set-point hypothesis are outlined. The cases of 2 anorexics with similar symptoms but different personality profiles are presented to illustrate the need to use personality data in treatment outcome studies or in selecting a treatment modality. It is argued that behavioral therapists, due to the ease of their available technology, often treat rather than think and that they need to consider the issues of if, what, and when to treat. In treatment, certain clinical problems require a focus on the technique, while others require a focus on the relationship. It is contended that certain existential problems (i.e., clinical signs of malaise, apathy, despondency, lethargy, general discontent, lack of direction and meaning) represent the disorders of the 1980's and that behavior therapy must learn to treat such cases because of their inevitable preponderance in coming years. Two therapeutic aspects—long-term treatment and the relationship—are emphasized for the behavioral treatment of existential disorders.

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The Behavior Therapist, v. 8, issue 3, p. 47-50