Psychological Self-Help

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How effective is self-instruction training? Meichenbaum (1977 and
1985) says it is promising but not yet conclusively proven. It has been
used with many kinds of people with many different problems with
some success. Dush, Hirt, & Schroeder (1989) found that self-
instruction modification, as done by therapists, was quite effective in
some studies but of marginal value in several others. It seems to work
better with adolescents than with younger children--but in either case
the improvements don't seem to last. Self-statement modification
done by your self has not been evaluated yet. Perhaps other self-help
methods need to be used along with self-instruction training. 
However, since we are all watching successful models and talking
to ourselves anyhow, the methods pose no new risks, except that
occasionally we may try a new behavior that produces unexpected
unwanted consequences. That's an unavoidable aspect of growth. 
Additional readings
Meichenbaum, D. Cognitive-Behavior Modification, New York:
Plenum Press, 1977. 
Meichenbaum, D. & Jaremko, M. Stress Reduction and
Prevention, New York: Plenum Press, 1983.
Using controlling or conditioned responses to change behavior
Some of our actions are easy to control and, indeed, some desired
responses are conditioned to occur automatically. For instance, if we
brush our teeth after every meal or buckle our seat belts every time
we get in a car, it becomes automatic. Actually, more than that, we
become uncomfortable if we don't carry out these habits. 
It is reasonable to use easy-to-control behaviors to control harder-
to-control behaviors. "Controlling behavior" is Skinner's term (1953)
and is really another form of method #1, changing the environment.
In other situations, if an activity can be gotten under stimulus control
(via conditioning), and the stimulus can be maintained, then self-
control is easy. This is called a "conditioned response." 
To use an easily controlled response for "controlling" another
response. Examples: buy only healthy foods (easy) to control
eating junk and sweets (hard). Invite someone to go jogging or
to diet with you (easy) to increase the chances you will exercise
or diet (hard). 
To increase a desired behavior, make it "conditioned" to a
certain situation and place yourself in that situation. Example:
Study only in one place and only study there; go there often. 
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