The Strengths and Weaknesses of Covert Sensitization, a Kind of Behavioral Therapy

Covert sensitization is a kind of behavioral therapy that pairs negative experiences or emotions with an unwanted behavior in order to get the root of clients’ troubled actions. In this report, I will go over my initial reaction, cite the strengths and weaknesses of the therapy, and discuss what type of clients to which it would be most and least beneficial.

Before reading about this case story, I was averse to using covert sensitization. It seemed unappealing to pair a behavior that a client has with the thought such as throwing up or feeling embarrassed. However, after reading the case story, I feel differently. There seem to be some major benefits to using this therapy, and depending on the individual client, I could see using it meaningfully.

There are several strengths and weaknesses in using this type of therapy. The main strength is that the client’s desire to change fuels the effectiveness of this type of therapy. It is also a strength that it relies on the therapist’s ability to foster empathy in the client. In the case with the Reverend, we saw how the covert sensitization took him from remorseless about his pedophilia to genuine change for the good.

The main weakness that this therapy has is that it fails to take in the entire scope of the behavior, and it works on understanding the origins and triggers of the behavior, but not so much on changing the behavior. I feel another weakness is that by pairing severely negative experiences with the behavior that needs to be changed might make a client feel like they are being forced, making covert sensitization less effective.

This therapy would be the most beneficial for high functioning adults and adolescents who want to change their behavior or get rid of unwanted arousal symptoms, such as those with anxiety disorders, depression, and schizophrenia and substance abuse issues. I feel that they would benefit most because of their ability to understand the purpose behind the therapy, and that they are possibly more motivated to make changes.

It would be least helpful for clients with cognitive deficits, because they may not be able to comprehend what covert sensitization is supposed to do. It might also be helpful for clients with PTSD, because it could further traumatize them. Also, people who are overly sensitive or unwilling to change, or unaware that they have a problem that needs to be changed would not benefit from this therapy, since its success is driven on the client’s desire to change.

As to the types of clients who would most or least benefit from this kind of therapy, it would depend on more of the individual, but with an emphasis on being sensitive to their cultural upbringings. However, covert sensitization has not been successful for homosexuals, so they would probably be one cultural group that would not benefit from this type of therapy.

I am glad that I got to read to this case story, because it brought new light to a kind of therapy that I was originally against using. I now understand the reasoning behind covert sensitization and how it can be applied effectively to clients.

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