Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


32nd Annual Convention; Atlanta, GA; 2006

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #307
CE Offered: BACB
Behavior Analysis and Biomedical Psychiatry: Conflicting Concepts and Treatment Approaches
Monday, May 29, 2006
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
Area: CBM; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Stephen E. Wong (Florida International University)
CE Instructor: Stephen E. Wong, Ph.D.

This symposium examines some conflicting concepts and treatment approaches of behavior analysis and biomedical psychiatry, with a critical eye on assumptions underlying the biomedical model and financial backing of this model by the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Wyatts presentation discusses external pressures on the profession of psychiatry and dynamics within the profession that encouraged it to adopt a biomedical approach to mental disorders. This philosophical realignment allowed the new biomedical psychiatry to regain its dominant position over the other mental health professions, including behavior analysis. Dr. Winstons presentation by takes a humorous look at logical fallacies in DSM-IV diagnoses and pharmacological treatments. It also provides a behavioral re-interpretation of some common mental disorders. Dr. Wongs presentation compares behavioral and biomedical treatments for schizophrenia and depression. It also examines ideological, political, and economic forces that promote the latter over the former, regardless of the latters scientific merits.

Psychiatry’s Flight from Science: A Profession’s Headlong, Non-empirical Rush to Biological Explanations.
W. JOSEPH WYATT (Marshall University)
Abstract: Psychiatry underwent a struggle of reduced professional esteem within and outside the medical profession, starting in the 1960s and 1970s. The percentage of medical school graduates choosing psychiatry as their specialty declined by more than half, from 11% to 5% from 1970 to 1980. Adding to organized psychiatry’s concerns was the influx into the mental health arena of increasing numbers of non-physicians (behavior analysts, clinical psychologists, counselors, clinical social workers) who threatened to undermine both psychiatry’s status and patient base. In response, organized psychiatry turned toward increasing reliance upon biological explanations of complex behaviors, including most depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, child conduct disorders and others. As a result, over the past several decades the culture has been inundated with claims of biological causation, often minus empirical support. With those claims has come the suggestion that physicians are the best qualified to undertake treatment, and that medication is the treatment of choice. This presentation will review the history of the biological causation movement of the past thirty-five years, with suggestions for dealing with the phenomenon at a community level.
A Behavioral Analytic Look at Mental Disorders, the DSM-IV, and Functional Effects of Psychotropic Medications.
MERRILL WINSTON (Professional Crisis Management, Inc.)
Abstract: This presentation critiques diagnostic criteria for mental disorders listed in the DSM-IV, as well as examines functional effects of medications (in terms of behavior) as opposed to their supposed neurochemical effects. The presentation provides behavior analysts with a framework that they may use to better understand mental disorders and how treatment goals may be formulated. Participants will also be more prepared to “get to the heart of the matter” regarding the problems that give rise to a particular diagnosis. Individuals will also be better equipped to help evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of various medications as they pertain to target behaviors.
Behavioral vs. Biomedical Treatments for Schizophrenia and Depression.
STEPHEN E. WONG (Florida International University)
Abstract: This paper will examine biomedical and behavioral treatments for two mental problems, schizophrenia and depression, revealing that the current dominance of biomedical approaches to these problems is not based on their superior treatment efficacy. Some of the serious side-effects of biomedical treatments, typically psychotropic drugs, will be reviewed. Reasons why biomedical and pharmacological solutions are the dominant approach to dealing with these problems will be discussed, including: huge profits garnered by the pharmaceutical industry, industry-controlled clinical research, drug company sponsorship of professional education, extensive media advertising campaigns, financial influence of client advocacy groups, infiltration of government regulatory agencies, and lobbying of legislative representatives.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh