Evan Hall ECPY 421 CBT (Skinner) vs.Psychotherapy (Freud) Introduction.Freud, being the “father” of psychology, has had an impact on the development of almost every other theory to fallow his own Psychotherapy.
This is primarily because most recognizable psychological theorists began their training under some form of Psychotherapy. B. F.
Skinner was one of the many theorists affected by Freud and his theories. However, even though Skinner originally studied Psychotherapy he eventually decided to stray from Freudian theory and develop his of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.Being derived from Psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy shares some ideas but has many differences. Both theories deal with altering the thoughts and behaviors of clients but on different levels and in different ways. Differences. Freud’s theory of Psychotherapy focuses solely on the unconscious mind and works to help the client to acquire some insight on their unconscious beliefs and behaviors. Measurement of the unconscious mind can be difficult considering its questionable existence.
However, Freud was convinced that the unconscious mind was an imperative part of people’s lives and greatly effects their behavior and mental health. Freud’s therapeutic technique was for the therapist to be a blank slate and have absolutely no effect on the client. The client was then allowed to free associate, verbally expressing anything and everything that came to mind. It was Freud’s belief that everything expressed was an important clue to attaining the insight needed to relieve the problems which were troubling the client.Freud also believed that nothing said or done by the client was unintentional or a mistake. Freud believed that these “Freudian slips” were actually the unconscious mind, or the Id, breaking through the barriers created by the Ego and Superego. Freud believed that these barriers were created to control the impulses of the unconscious thereby protecting the individual from the morals of the surrounding society and vice versa.
Freud’s technique was non-confrontational in that the therapist provided no guidance to the client. The therapist would only ask the client to consider the ossible hidden meanings to their trail of thought they had verbally expressed during their free association. (Dilman, 1988) Skinner on the other hand, considered the mind to be a “black box” and believed it was impossible to be measured or even considered when analyzing human behavior. Even though Skinner started off under Psychotherapy, he developed his theory of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy without any consideration of the unconscious mind. Skinner believed that all human behavior was learned and that the thought process involved in enacting the behavior could be conditioned.Skinner’s theory involved the use of the Skinner box. In the Skinner box either a rat or a pigeon was trained to perform a specific behavior in order to receive a food reward.
Skinner used the food as reinforcement to promote the repetition of a specific behavior. Skinner created this form of operant conditioning after fallowing Pavlov’s studies in operant conditioning. Skinner believed that the unconscious mind was irrelevant when attempting to understand human behavior because all behaviors are learned using conscious cognition, which has no place in the unconscious mind.Skinner believed that all people are born as blank slates and that they are shaped and molded by the environment they live in. (Gelso & Fretz, 2001) Similarities. There are very few similarities in the specifics of Freud and Skinner’s theories. The goal of Freud’s theory is for the client to gain insight on their unconscious impulses and behaviors so that the client may bring their unconscious behaviors into their conscious mind, allowing them to control or edit those behaviors to their liking.
Skinner also attempts to alter human behavior, although in a more direct manner. Both of the theories focus on the past experiences of the clients. Freud believed that all unconscious behaviors and impulses are primal and imprinted in our brains at birth, but they are only malleable during the first five years of life. Skinner also focused on the clients past and how they may have been taught to behave through operant conditioning. Both theories end goal consist of altering or repressing undesired behaviors.Psychotherapy uses the acquiring of insight to allow the client to observe their unconscious behaviors bringing them into their conscious thoughts so that they may edit or suppress those behaviors. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy used the techniques of reinforcement and extinction to either promote or discourage specific behaviors.
(Gelso & Fretz, 2001) Skinner’s Theory in Depth. Skinner’s main theory of reinforcement is based in the behavioral approach where the theorists focus mainly on the overt behaviors of people and how they can be measured to some stimulus in our environment.An individual’s personality develops mostly in response to how they are reinforced or punished for responding to their environments. Due to ethical restrictions Skinner was not able to fully test operant conditioning with his Skinner box on humans, but he claimed that rats and pigeons would suffice because they share the same elemental processes as humans. This could be considered a weakness of Skinner’s theory because one may argue that humans may have similar elemental processes they also have much more developed cognitive processes that vastly exceed the limitations of rats and pigeons.One of the strengths of Skinner’s reinforcement theory is its effectiveness on young children. Most parents today still use a system of rewards and punishment to condition their children’s behavior, reinforcing the good behavior and discouraging the bad.
Today’s jobs also use a system of rewards and punishment to condition employees to follow the rules the company seeks to enforce. If an employee follows the rules and displays the appropriate behavior, they could be rewarded with a pay raise, a promotion, or positive acknowledgement.If an employee doesn’t follow the rules they could be reprimanded with negative feedback, demotions, or cut hours for part time employees. Another weakness of Skinners reinforcement theory is its inability to be applied in most forms of therapy. It’s difficult for a therapist to manipulate a client’s behavior with a system of rewards and punishments simply because the therapist can’t be around the client at all times. Reinforcement theory is best used in a self-regulated system of rewards and punishment. However, without some sort of external monitoring there is no certainty to the reinforcement.
A final strength of the reinforcement theory is its usefulness in behavioral modification when dealing with individuals with behavioral issues. Whether a therapist or parent is dealing with an unruly young child or a rebellious and troubled teen, Skinner’s reinforcement theory can be used to edit ones behaviors to promote the desired and discourage the undesired. (Toates, 2009) Conclusion. Even though Freud could be considered the “father” of psychology, his old theory of Psychotherapy has had at least some effect on almost all of the theories to follow his own.Skinner’s theory of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and reinforcement is no exception when considering Freud’s influence. However, it would seem that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Psychotherapy are on opposite ends of the therapy spectrum. Though the two theories do share some similarities, they have a vast amount of differences.
Although Skinners theory of reinforcement is still used to help modify the behaviors of individuals with behavioral issues or the behaviors of younger children or young teens, it has many limits.Skinners reinforcement theory has little application in a therapist-client relationship because of time constraints and other physical limitations. Reinforcement theory also has limitations when considering experiments with human subjects. The theory could be seen as unethical and inhumane because it goal is to manipulate and shape the behaviors of people while ignoring their emotions and opinions. However, even with these limitations people still use Skinners reinforcement theory when molding the behaviors of their children to fit the values and rules of the environment they will be growing up in.