RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN EXPERIMENTAL AND CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY: THE CASE OF BEHAVIOR THERAPY

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Abstract

Behavior therapy is the outstanding example of the beneficial influence of experimental research on clinical practice. Initial applications of laboratory research to clinical disorders consisted primarily of the principles and procedures of operant and classical conditioning. The development and evaluation of the token economy and biofeedback methods are used to illustrate the contribution of operant conditioning, whereas the derivation and efficacy of exposure‐based treatments for phobic and obsessive‐compulsive disorders exemplify the utility of classical and avoidance conditioning concepts. As behavior therapy has matured and grown more clinically sophisticated, its theoretical and research bases have broadened to include areas such as vicarious learning and self‐regulatory processes. Most recently, concepts from modern cognitive and social psychology (e.g., information processing, attribution theory) have begun to guide clinical applications. In turn, different therapeutic approaches have influenced the nature of laboratory research in some areas. Nonetheless, a gap still exists between experimental research and clinical practice. The solution to this perennial problem is not to make scientists of practitioners, but to recognize the unique contributions of basic researchers, clinical investigators, and practitioners, within a consistent framework that specifies the complex interrelationships among the different levels of analysis along the continuum of basic research to clinical practice. Such a framework is sketched‐out together with some comments on the reasons for relative paucity of controlled clinical research in the U.S.A. and suggestions for bringing the influence of research findings to bear on practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-341
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Psychology
Volume16
Issue number1-4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1981

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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