This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 13 table of contents.

Modeling and Behavior Rehearsal

After the success of desensitization therapy called attention to the new field of behavior therapy in the 1950s and 1960s, behavior therapists began to branch out from desensitization and sensitization to different types of therapy. Albert Bandura's Principles of Behavior Modification (1967) introduced the concepts of vicarious reinforcement, modeling, and behavior rehearsal to behavior therapists.

What were some concepts introduced by Bandura in the mid-1960s?

Bandura was a leading social learning theorist of the 1960s and 1970s. He emphasized observational learning. Observational learning occurs through vicarious reinforcement (being influenced by seeing somebody else get reinforced), modeling (learning by watching another person perform a behavior), and behavior rehearsal (acting out a behavior to learn it and refine it as a skill).

Here is an example from Wolpe and Lazarus (1966) in which a client appropriately dubbed "P.R." is taught to sell himself in a job interview.

What techniques were used with P.R.?

Mr. P.R.. was told to pretend that the therapist was a prominent business executive who had advertised for an experienced accountant to take charge of one of his companies. Mr. P.R.. had applied for the position and had been asked to present himself for an interview. The therapist instructed Mr. P.R.. to leave the consulting room, to knock on the door and to enter when invited to do so...

At the therapist's deliberately resonant "Come in!" Mr. P.R.. opened the door of the consulting room and hesitantly approached the desk. The therapist interrupted the role-playing procedure to mirror the patient's timid posture, shuffling gait, downcast eyes and overall tension.

The "correct" entry was rehearsed several times until Mr. PR's approach to the prominent executive-behind-the-desk was completely devoid of any overt signs of timidity or anxiety. He was then taught to deal with a variety of entries—being met at the door; the employer who makes himself incommunicado while studying important looking documents; and the overeffusive one who self-consciously tries to place him at ease.

Next, the content of the interview was scrutinized. Mr. PR's replies to questions concerning his background, qualifications and experience were tape-recorded. Mr. P.R.. was instructed to place himself in the position of the prospective employer and asked to decide whether or not he would employ the applicant on the basis of his recorded interview. It was clear from the recording that the elimination of Mr. PR's hesitant gait and posture had not generalized to his faltering speech. Above all, it was noted that Mr. P.R.. tended to undersell himself. Instead of stressing his excellent qualifications he mumbled rather incoherent and unimpressive generalities about his background and training.

The therapist demonstrated more efficient verbal responses that the patient was required to imitate. In this manner, Mr. P.R.. was able to rehearse adequate replies to specific questions, and to prepare an impressive-sounding discourse for use in unstructured interviews.

The above-mentioned procedures were employed during five therapeutic sessions held at weekly intervals. Mr. P.R.. canceled his sixth appointment and did not communicate for approximately 2 months. He then made another appointment. On entering the consulting room, he said, "You are looking at the Chief Accountant of..." (a large industrial organization). (Wolpe & Lazarus, p.47)

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