When is Aversion Therapy Used?

Aversion therapy is a type of classical conditioning therapy used by doctors, counselors and psychologists. The idea behind this type of therapy is that it will change the way patients feel about specific actions, behaviors and physical items. Often used as way to treat patients suffering from addictions to prescription drugs or illegal drugs, it may also help those addicted to alcohol or certain types of behavior. Patients interested in this type of therapy may want to learn more about it and ask questions of their doctors before starting a treatment program.

What is it?

Aversion counseling or therapy relies on some type of negative stimuli that changes the connections in the mind. Doctors believe that when a patient experiences that negative stimuli, he or she will draw a connection between that bad feeling and the substance or action. During the early days of its usage, doctors sometimes attempted to treat patients and “cure” them of homosexuality with aversion programs. Medical professionals typically use it now when treating alcoholics and those addicted to drugs, but there may be a few other uses for the concept as well.

Alcoholism and Aversion

According to¬†Saul McLeod, doctors may prescribe alcoholics with a prescription drug that causes them sickness when exposed to alcohol as part of an aversion program. Patients take the prescription drug every day under a doctor’s supervision. Those who ingest even the smallest amount of alcohol while taking that drug will feel sick to their stomachs and may even vomit. With prolonged use, alcoholics eventually learn that they cannot drink without feeling sick. Some even find that the connection between getting sick and drinking remains long after they stop taking the medication.

Addiction and Aversion

Doctors use aversion programs when helping patients overcome addictions to different substances as well. Withdrawal is the first step in the program and the first step associated with helping an addict get clean. Withdrawal can take a few days up to one week or longer, and some continue experiencing withdrawal symptoms for several weeks or more. Doctors can prescribe addicts drugs that help them combat those symptoms. They can also prescribe drugs that help patients wean themselves off prescription or illegal drugs. These medications help them reduce their symptoms and battle their cravings and urges until they learn how to battle their addictions on their own.

Other Versions and Uses

Psychologists also use aversion therapy as a way to help some patients dealing with deviant behaviors. For example, doctors used electroshock therapy for decades as a way to treat patients addicted to certain sexual behaviors and for those who engaged in homosexuality. Doctors may also use electric shocks as a way to treat pedophiles and other patients. They show patients a series of images and shock them each time they respond favorably to a negative image. Though studies are mixed, some believe that this type of therapy can cure and help patients who cannot help themselves.

Though the psychology field changes as psychologists make new developments, aversion counseling is one of the oldest types of programs still used today. Medical professionals use these programs when dealing with patients addicted to drugs, alcohol and certain behaviors and actions. Some patients respond favorably to aversion therapy, but it may not be the best choice for everyone.