picture of a Faradic machine
A device somewhat similar to the one Lazarus used for his behavioral treatment method

In 1965, a psychologist named Arnold Lazarus described an assortment of behavior therapy techniques that he tried with one OCD patient. At the time, exposure-and-response-prevention therapy had not yet been developed.

A 19-year-old girl had suffered for three and one-half years from an urge to wash her hands excessively whenever she accidentally or deliberately touched any part of her own body. . . .

The following procedure was then adopted: Deep relaxation was induced and thin sheets of paper were placed across her knees. She was asked to rest her hands on this paper and instructed to relax even further. Thinner and thinner sheets of paper were applied, until only a single sheet of porous tissue paper was used. Finally, deep relaxation was applied following actual contact between her hands and knees. Although this method enabled her to increase the latency between self-contact and washing, it decreased neither the frequency nor the intensity of her compulsive behavior. . . . [Next,] she was hypnotized and asked to imagine extreme feelings of discomfort while engaging in compulsive handwashing, followed by imagining marked relief when resisting the compulsive act. This also proved unsuccessful.

She was then provided with a portable faradic shock unit, instructed to attach the electrodes to her upper arms, and told to switch the current onto "continuous shock" whenever she engaged in compulsive handwashing. It was impressed upon her that she was not to switch off the apparatus until she actually stopped washing her hands. She was asked to note the number of times she used the apparatus each day. During the first week, her frequency dropped from 16 times on the first day to three on the seventh day. By the end of the second week, she rarely engaged in compulsive handwashing more than once a day. It was then discovered that she was merely avoiding any contact with her own body, and that the urge to wash was only slightly weaker when contact did occur. Aversion therapy on a daily basis in the consulting room was then added to her regime. She was instructed to touch various parts of her body and invited to wash her hands when she so desired while the therapist administered unpleasant electric shocks (on an intermittent schedule) to her forearms from a larger faradic unit. After four sessions she pronounced herself "cured," but overlearning was administered during an additional period of six days.

Arnold A. Lazarus, Behavior therapy, incomplete treatment, and symptom substitution, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, January 1965, 140:1:80-86.


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