The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Operant and Classical Conditioning

By Frances K. McSweeney; Eric S. Murphy | Go to book overview

27
Clinical Behavior Analysis

William C. Follette and Sabrina M. Darrow

Behavior analysis derives from B. F. Skinner’s emphasis on the study of behavior in its own right rather than as a proxy for some more fundamental, unobservable process in the mind, brain, or psychic structure. Skinner’s work, The Behavior of organisms (1938) and Schedules of reinforcement (Ferster & Skinner, 1957), formed the basis for applied behavior analysis, the application of the principles of reinforcement to changing human behavior. The results of applying principles of reinforcement to treating conditions that significantly limit human functioning have been profound. Childhood autism has been among the notable problems that have responded to behavior analytic treatment, starting with the work of Wolf, Risley, and Mees (1963) under the supervision of Sid Bijou. In 1968, Allyon and Azrin published their work on the effects of implementing a token economy that dramatically altered the way inpatient psychotic individuals could be treated. That work was elaborated further by Gordon Paul in his work on psychosocial interventions for chronic mental patients (Paul & Lentz, 1977).

Though these and other applications of behavioral principles remain as powerful examples of the utility of bringing principles of behavior analysis to bear on important behavioral problems, many of the early applications occurred in restricted environments in which there was a great deal of control over the contingencies delivered over long periods of time. The individuals being treated often had little time outside the influence of the behavior analyst and the contingencies the analyst arranged.

Clinical behavior analysis (CBA) ventures into less controlled environments. Though still generally adhering to behavioral principles, “clinical behavior analysis focuses on the use of verbally based interventions to verbally competent clients who seek outpatient treatment” (Dougher, 2000, p. v). In so doing, clinical behavior analysis has had to develop new tools and perspectives that are not without controversy.

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