Other major critic’s of Psychoanalysis were Hans Eysenck and philosopher Karl Popper who both challenged the notion that psychoanalysis meets the criteria of a science. Popper argued that for Freudian theory to qualify as a science, it should be accessible to tests made by others. Science cannot be based on belief or personal philosophy, but must be based on evidence that others can attempt to disprove.
Popper believed that the predictions made by psychoanalysis are not predictions of obvious behaviour but of unseen psychological states. This reference to hidden states makes them untestable, to Popper’s way of thinking. For example, Popper suggested that only when some individuals are not neurotic is it possible to experimentally determine if prospective patients are currently neurotic. He pointed out that because psychoanalysis holds that every individual is neurotic to some degree, it is impossible to design an experiment that would demonstrate the contrast between neurotic and non-neurotic people. Eysenck (1986), who conducted the first study of the effectiveness of psychotherapy, challenged the legitimacy of psychoanalysis based on his conclusion that it is ineffective:
“I have always taken it for granted that the obvious failure of Freudian therapy to significantly improve on spontaneous remission or placebo treatment is the clearest proof we have of the inadequacy of Freudian theory, closely followed by the success of alternative methods of treatment, such as behaviour therapy”. Eysenck himself has been criticised for his methods, but concluded that psychoanalysis was like giving a patient a placebo.
The Behavioural approach:
The behaviourist approach dominated psychology in the first half of this century, especially in the United States. The goals of behaviourism were to move psychology toward a scientific model, which focused on the observation and measurement of behaviour. Its assumptions were that behaviour is primarily the result of the environment rather than genetics or instincts and so behaviourists reject the view that abnormal behaviour has a biological basis. Like the psychodynamic theorists, behaviourists have a deterministic view of mental disorders believing that our actions are largely determined by our experiences in life.
However, unlike Freud they see abnormal behaviour is a learned response (through conditioning) and not as the result of mysterious and they would argue unknowable unconscious processes. While much of our behaviour is adaptive, helping us to cope with a changing world, it is also possible to learn behaviours that are abnormal and undesirable. However, such maladaptive learning can be treated by changing the environment so that un-learning could take place.
These are often used to treat phobias and involve the patient learning to associate their phobic stimulus spider or whatever with relaxation. Systematic desensitisation was created by Joseph Wolpe and is seen as a pleasant way of helping a patient, other therapies from this model include aversion therapy, flooding and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Systematic desensitization: Involves a series of steps, which occur over several therapy sessions:
1. The therapist and client make up an anxiety hierarchy, the hierarchy lists stimuli that the client is likely to find frightening. The client ranks the stimuli from least frightening to most frightening. 2. The therapist teaches the client how to progressively and completely relax his body. 3. Next, the therapist asks the client to first relax and then imagine encountering the stimuli listed in the anxiety hierarchy, beginning with the least-frightening stimulus. If the client feels anxious while imagining a stimulus, he is asked to stop imagining the stimulus and focus on relaxing. After some time, the client becomes able to imagine all the stimuli on the hierarchy without anxiety.
4. Finally, the client practices encountering the real stimuli. When they feel comfortable with this they move on. The role of the analyst is also important since they need to recognise the reason for the fear. Sometimes this may be irrational but there may also be logical reasons for the fear which need to be dealt with too. Systematic desensitisation is an effective therapy with patients showing much greater recovery than with no therapy, based on a scientifically tested theory it has formed the basis of later behaviourist therapies such as exposure therapy (flooding). Whilst systematic desensitisation is a slow process, research suggests that the longer the technique takes the more effective it is.
It has also been shown to have long term benefits. However, systematic desensitisation is limited in use, being used mostly to treat specific anxiety disorders such as phobias. Irrational fears of spiders, buttons etc are seen as relatively trivial disorders in comparison to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder where it has little or nothing to offer. The behaviourist approach does struggle with more serious disorders such as the initial symptoms of schizophrenia which include hallucinations and delusions are internal mental states which the behaviourists ignore in an attempt to create a scientifically testable theory.
Aversion therapy uses the behavioural approach principles that new behaviour can be ‘learnt’ in order to overcome addictions, obsessions and violent behaviour. Patients undergoing aversion therapy are made to think of the undesirable experience that they enjoy, for example a violent person might be shown images of violent crime, or an alcoholic might be made to drink, while drugs or electric shocks are administered. In theory the patient will over time come to associate their addiction with the negativity of electric shocks or seizures and has been used to treat a host of undesirable behaviours such as smoking, alcoholism, gambling, violence and homosexuality when it was considered a mental illness.
Aversion therapy’s long term success in treating patients is questionable as patients may appear to be treated by therapy but once out of the view of doctors, where the deterrent drugs or electric shocks are removed, they may feel able to return to their addictions or undesirable behaviour. Aversion therapy has endured much criticism in previous decades in its use in abusing patients. At a time when homosexuality was considered by some to be a mental illness, gay people were made to undergo aversion therapy for their lifestyles which included receiving electrical shocks if they became aroused by specific stimuli. A number of fatalities have also occurred during aversion therapy.