Sensitization refers to a behavioral treatment designed for myriad problem behaviors including alcohol and drugs as well as obesity, sexual deviance, delinquent behavior, stealing, and compulsions. Sensitization describes building up avoidance to an aversive stimulus, and covert distinguishes this treatment in that neither the stimulus nor the consequence is actually presented. This entry includes the history, rationale and assumptions, implementation, examples, and advantages and disadvantages of covert sensitization.

When covert sensitization is used for alcohol or drug treatment, the client imagines a problem behavior, such as drinking alcohol, and then imagines a negative consequence, such as nausea. The therapist guides the participant through a series of specific situations, increasing the intensity of the consequence based on the proximity to the behavior while at the same time ...

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