Junior (College 3rd year) ・Psychology ・APA ・7 Sources

Mowers' two-stage models can help in accounting for the therapy of post-traumatic stress disorder. To treat PTSD, it is necessary to recognize the phobias, anxiety, and fears that arise as a result of paired associations between neutral stimuli and fearful stimuli. The source of a person's suspicion must be identified, together with the reasons for suspicion (Pavlov & Watson, 2017). For example, consider a young child who was engaged in a car accident a week ago. When this youngster sees an overspeeding vehicle or thinks about the location of the incident, he will get terrified. The condition will be the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The event provides a paired association in the boy’s mind and causes trauma. Classical conditioning part of the model provides the appropriate treatment as it will involve potent biological stimulus which bears the paired association. According to the Mowrer’s theoretical precepts, avoidance and escaping from the provoking stimuli can help in coping PTSD (Lissek & van Meurs, 2015).

The unpleasant emotions, anxiety and provoking stimuli which Mowrer’s model describes can be handled through avoidance. Avoidance of these stimuli results in a positive reward which discourages PTSD (VanElzakker et al., 2014). For instance, a patient with PTSD as a result of a social shame, maybe, the person is not a fluent speaker, and a particular congregation ashamed him/her on the stage, the disorder may develop. To quash the disorder, the victim should withdraw, avoid going to that place. By that, he/she will have reinforced the avoidance behavior. Therefore, negative reinforcement, that is, avoidance and escape, will be useful in treating PTSD.

The therapeutic implication of accounting and treating PTSD by operant and classical precepts of behavior psychology are based on avoidance learning. Patients are guided on avoiding and escaping from the fear, anxiety and traumatic situations, actions that resulted in the condition (Dunsmoor & Murphy, 2015). The relationship also calls for positive and negative reinforcement where, familiarizing oneself with the stimuli which generate fear and overcoming them, positive reinforcement, and avoiding encounter or experiences that caused the disorder, negative reinforcement.

Mowrer’s model has been criticized for treating PTSD. Integration of both operant and classical conditioning is seen as ineffective in addressing high-level PTSD. Patients with high levels of anxiety, trauma, and fear may not be well with avoidance and escape from the traumatic situations. In this case, classical conditioning, for instance, involves potent biological stimulus like food, which ignites stimulus such as hunger. These stimuli may not be as strong as the patient with PTSD. Pavlovian model of classical conditioning, therefore, seemed ineffective in handling PTSD.

However, merging both the models in operant and classical conditioning would be more useful if there were therapies applied to counsel patients with PTSD. For the psychologists, there could be an additional cognitive and exposure therapies for the cases of high PTSD levels (Rachman, 2015), (Vorstenbosch, Newman & Antony, 2014). For instance, a girl who has been raped at her teenage years cannot work so well with avoidance and escape based on Mowrer’s model of operant and classical conditioning. The cause is severe, and the disorder is intense. The patient can go through conditioning but still be guided towards medication and other forms of therapies. All the same, PTSD patients are psychologically traumatized, and the situation can be handled through conditioning of the mind and manipulation of behavior through Mowrer’s models (Greer & Thompson, 2017).


Dunsmoor, J. E., & Murphy, G. L. (2015). Categories, concepts, and conditioning: how humans generalize fear. Trends in cognitive sciences, 19(2), 73-77.

Greer, T. L., & Thompson, L. T. (2017). Eyeblink Classical Conditioning in Psychiatric Conditions: Novel Uses for a Classic Paradigm. Frontiers in psychiatry, 8.

Lissek, S., & van Meurs, B. (2015). Learning models of PTSD: theoretical accounts and psychobiological evidence. International journal of psychophysiology, 98(3), 594-605.

Pavlov, I., & Watson, J. (2017). Skinner-Operant Conditioning.

Rachman, S. (2015). The evolution of behaviour therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy. Behaviour research and therapy, 64, 1-8.

VanElzakker, M. B., Dahlgren, M. K., Davis, F. C., Dubois, S., & Shin, L. M. (2014). From Pavlov to PTSD: the extinction of conditioned fear in rodents, humans, and anxiety disorders. Neurobiology of learning and memory, 113, 3-18.

Vorstenbosch, V., Newman, L., & Antony, M. M. (2014). Exposure techniques. The Wiley handbook of cognitive behavioral therapy.

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