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Réflexions critiques sur la thérapie comportementale

Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales
Publication Date
DOI: 10.3406/arss.1978.2588
  • Medicine
  • Psychology


Critical Reflections on Behavior Therapy. The notion of mental health is currently the subject of a lively debate. The parties involved are, on the one hand, those who claim to employ modem science for the purpose of rehabilitating people and allowing them to lead normal lives and, on the other hand, those who reject, in the name of individual liberty (the nature of which is itself problematical), the «therapeutic society» and its tendency towards ever-increasing control. In this debate, the panoply of therapeutic methods, the rapid increase in the number of educators of all sorts, and the «medicalization» of deviant practices have recently been strongly re-inforced by a new ally : behavior therapy. With an impressive arsenal of aseptic techniques, it confidently presents itself as the efficient therapy, its principal argument residing in its scientific origins. Since it is, in fact, founded upon the experimental study of behavior and the «laws» that the behaviorists have formulated, it enables its practioners, at little cost, to make neurotic symptoms «disappear». And for the behavior therapists, these symptoms are the disease. In reality, this efficacy must be examined in a way which brings to light the background of the «clientele» treated by these therapists and the ephemeral nature of the «cures» they obtain. The head of the behaviorist movement, Skinner, who has inspired numerous methods for aiding people to readapt to normal life, deserves credit for clearly voicing the ideological aim of these experiments on human behavior. The cosmetic liberalism by which the dominant classes seek to preserve their power has been quick to adopt such experiments. For they provide it with unobtrusive instruments for maintaining the social order which, thanks to their scientific basis, are virtually immune to attack.

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