a) The behavioural approach explains that abnormal behaviour is developed as a result to learning processes. Those with symptoms of disorders have learned self-defeating or ineffective ways of behaving. This is mainly due to the learning of maladaptive behaviour, which takes place by processes including classical and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning is when an emotional response including anxiety and fear is associated through any neutral stimulus. In other words, when a stimulus is regularly coupled with an unpleasant than this stimulus can result to a phobia. Operant conditioning is another method of learning process. When an individuals behaviour is reinforced then it is repeated and if it is punished it is less likely to be repeated.
b) Behavioural therapies are used to relearn maladaptive behaviour. Token economy is one type of behavioural therapy. In this therapy the patient is awarded for appropriate behaviour by tokens, which can later be exchanged for more desirable things such as luxurious foods, recreational time or watching television. It is based on the basic principles of operant conditioning and is mainly used on problem children, juvenile delinquents and people suffering from schizophrenia.
c) Research has been carried out to show the effectiveness of token economy. Alloyon and Azron (1968) carried out a study on female long stay patients with schizophrenia in a psychiatric hospital, reinforcing behaviours such as neat appearance and constantly cleaning. Results showed a marked improvement in behaviour but also an additional benefit was an increase in staff morale. However this study also showed negative points. One problem was due to token economy the staff focused more on rewarding good behaviour and ignored inappropriate behaviour. In conclusion this programme does lead to a marked improvement of the behaviour, but does not claim to the condition.
The token economy is very successful in many settings but best in institutions where they are carefully controlled over the reinforcement programme. However there are some problems in this programme. Some of the improvements in behaviour do not extend outside the setting in which they are implemented. Another is, this system is impractical due to encouraging complex behaviour such as language.
Ethical problems also arise in this programme. It has been criticised as to being manipulative and inhumane as people are treated as performing animals. However, it has been argued that the token economy system is part of everyday life. For example people work, and are rewarded by getting paid. Carson and butcher (1992) commented that the token economy system shows that people expecting patients in the institutions to ‘perform’ for simple amenities are highly misjudged. Without have the normal systems of rewards and punishments in everyday life can leave them to result in chronic social disability.