personal pride in the skills, self-discipline and values involved in
Covert negative reinforcement--first imagine a very unpleasant
scene and then start imagining the desired target behavior and
feelings which are associated with the termination of the
unpleasant scene. Example: a shy person could imagine being
very nervous at a party and dreading being approached. He/she
further imagines being approached and asked some questions
which he/she handles nicely and even with some wit. The
nervousness goes away as he/she responds to the questions
(thus, reinforcing the social interaction). A similar example
would be a person suffering speech phobia; he/she could
imagine being terrified before a TV interview but as he/she
handles the situation adroitly in fantasy, the terror immediately
subsides. See discussion in method #17. In some cases, it may
be better to terminate a fear, threat, or unpleasant fantasy that
is completely different from your actual concern (it is another
trial at learning the unwanted fear).
Covert sensitization or punishment--imagine the unwanted
behavior vividly and in detail, followed immediately with
fantasies of some very unpleasant event, such as vomiting
(Cautela's favorite punishment or UCS). Examples: a smoker
might imagine having the urge to smoke and getting ready to
light up. He/she immediately imagines getting nauseous and
finally, just as he/she thinks of lighting the cigarette, he/she
imagines vomiting all over the cigarette, his/her clothes, people
near by and so on. The same could be done with food, alcohol,
unwanted sexual urges, worries, jealous thoughts, angry
thoughts and acts, etc., i.e. pair them with vomit or any other
Covert extinction--imagine doing the unwanted target behavior
and receiving no reinforcement or reaction of any kind.
Example: a person with lots of aches and pains could imagine
telling his/her complaints to many people who have no reaction
at all. A clown or flirt or braggart or gossip or spiteful person
could do the same thing.
Combinations: Homme suggested a sequence of four thoughts-
-(a) the unwanted urge, (b) an unpleasant thought, (c) a
desired behavior, and (d) a pleasant thought. You can see how
(b) and (d) punish and reinforce (a) and (c). Suppose one is
sexually turned on by an inappropriate person (wrong sex, too
young, too old, married, otherwise unavailable or
uninteresting). One might imagine the urge (only briefly, not
too much!) followed by unpleasant thoughts ("I'd get hurt" or
"That would get me in terrible trouble" or imagining vomiting).
Then think of a more realistic, loving and available relationship,
followed by a pleasant scene or a small reward.
The method of "thought stopping" is another useful covert
procedure (method # 10). In a therapy case, Cautela commonly uses
several covert techniques at the same time to change several
behaviors or emotions.