Therapeutic Techniques

Dollard and Miller's explanation of psychotherapy is largely a presentation of key features of psychoanalysis described in S-R terms. Therapy is viewed as a situation in which new learning can occur. Because neurotic conflict is unconscious, new learning is required to remove repression so that conflict can be resolved. One technique for doing this, taken directly from psychoanalysis, is free association; here, neurotic patients are instructed to say whatever comes to their consciousness. Because this can be a painful experience, patients may resist doing this, but, because the therapist rewards patients for free associating, they eventually continue. While free associating, patients become aware of emotions related to their unconscious conflicts and so develop a better understanding of themselves.

Another technique borrowed from psychoanalysis involves a phenomenon known as transference. Patients experience and express feelings about the therapist. Such feelings really represent, in S-R terms, emotional reactions to parents, teachers, and other important persons in the patient's past, which, through stimulus generalization, have been transferred to the therapist. The therapist helps the patient to recognize and label these feelings and to see that they are generalized from significant persons in the patient's past. The patient in this way learns how she or he really feels. The patient learns much about herself or himself that was previously unconscious and learns how to think more adaptively about everyday life. The patient's symptoms are thereby alleviated.

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