Behaviour therapy can be defined in various ways. Some behaviour therapists view behaviour therapy as 'the application of learning theories' whereas others (cognitive behaviour therapists) emphasize cognitive change. There are also behaviour therapists who view behaviour therapy as the application of findings from controlled research into clinical treatment procedures. These proponents of the so-called experimental-clinical approach do not exclusively base themselves on learning theories or cognitive theories.
It is of note that the distinction between cognitive and behaviour therapy procedures is rather artificial. Behaviour therapists often integrate cognitive and behavioural methods in their clinical practice. For didactic purposes, however, the editors chose to cover the cognitive approach and the behavioural approach in separate chapters. One should keep this decision in mind when reading this chapter further.
Although behaviour therapy and behaviourism appear to be strongly related, the relationship between these two movements is far from unequivocal. Behaviourism is an important movement in experimental psychology, originating at the start of the twentieth century. The American psychologist Watson is usually considered the 'father' of behaviourism, although it seems more likely that he functioned as a catalyst or charismatic leader of a larger societal movement (Kanfer, 1990). The onset of behaviour therapy, however, was much later and did not occur until the 1950s. Behaviour therapy started in response to the operative psycho-dynamic view of problem behaviour. The discontent with the then-prevailing - notoriously unreliable - psychodiagnostic assessment and the effects of psychotherapy was another important impetus.
In 1952, the British psychologist Hans Eysenck caused a major stir with his empirical review claiming that the effects of traditional psychotherapy did not exceed those of no treatment at all. As an effective alternative, Eysenck (1952) mentioned behaviour therapy based on modern learning theory. At the time, only a few British psychologists and psychiatrists were experimenting with this method, following the South African psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe. A similar development occurred more-or-less simultaneously in the United States. While Wolpe and the British group based themselves predominantly on classical
Handbook of Evidence-based Psychotherapies: A Guide for research and practice. Edited by C. Freeman & M. Power. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
conditioning principles, in the United States the emphasis was on the application of operant conditioning principles in the treatment of dysfunctional behaviour. In 1963, Eysenck established the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy, which to this day is the leading journal in behaviour therapy.
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