Aversion Therapy focuses on punishment rather than reward. Early therapies involved electrical shocks for punishment every time an addict wanted to drink, smoke or gamble, however this proved to be unsuccessful.
Antabuse is now widely used; a drug that makes people sick when taking alcohol. It was hoped that this would cause alcoholics to associate alcohol with the punishing effect of being sick.
Research has found this to be very effective, however it does not come without it's limitations, for one the therapy requires the alcoholic to take the drug in the first place. It is also reductionist, as it ignores the reasons which lead an individual to developing an addiction to alcohol in the first place. Most importantly, there are several ethical issues underlying the appropriateness of the use of Antabuse. The client has no protection from harm, which they may severely experience both physically and mentally during therapy. Additionally, if Antabuse is administered in a clinical setting, the client has no informed consent or right to withdraw.
Cue Exposure is based around the cues that trigger addiction. For instance, many smokers drinking alcohol is a cue. The therapy helps addicts to control cravings through coping strategies.
Through this, the responses to the cues in the environment that may cause smoking will eventually fade away. Through relapse triggers in the absence of addiction, the addict learns to stay addiction free in these situations.
This method of therapy is thought to be much more effective than simply avoiding cues.
Contingency Contracting is relatively similar to cue exposure. It requires the individual to identify the environmental factors that are associated with smoking/drinking. For example, smokers may smoke in a smokers shed at college, and thus this environmental cue can trigger smoking.
The therapist aims to gradually expose the client with different cues, and helps them to develop coping strategies in order to deal with them.
Contingency Contracting has been found to be a much more effective method than Cue Avoidance, as although this intervention reduces the physical addiction, it doesn't teach coping strategies to deal with environmental triggers or associations that are around the addict in everyday life.
Overall, all these behaviour interventions share on thing in common; they all target environmental cues that are associated with addiction. On the other hand, they do not target why individuals become addicted to the addiction in the first place, which therefore reduces their long-term effectiveness.
A further disadvantage with these interventions is that they only focus on smoking and alcohol addiction, therefore causing problems when trying to relate them to gambling (most of the research conducted to support their effectiveness has focused on smoking and drinking).
Nonetheless, these interventions have proven to be more effective in a multicomponent programme, which often incorporates both biological methods and psychological therapies.