Aversion Therapy: What Is It & How Does It Work?

Last Update on November 4, 2020 : Published on November 4, 2020
Aversion therapy

Aversion therapy can be called as a behavioral therapy that helps a person in treatment of bad or addictive behaviors. The therapy is associated with unpleasant moments attached to the repeated behavior.

If an example is considered, drug addicts going through aversion therapy are administered a mild electrical shock so whenever they feel like using the drug, the memory of electrical shock would remind them of not using the drug. While this sounds too much to some, long-term addicts might need to opt for such measures if they wish to kick the habit.

Also Read: Person-Centered Therapy: How it Functions and What You Should Expect

In practice, Aversion therapy follows a process where an individual is exposed to engage in his pleasure like drugs, cigarettes or alcohol. At the same time, he is exposed to unpleasant experiences like foul smell, taste or mild electric shocks. Such addiction or behavior reduces in frequency and even stops at later stages.

A Brief History

Aversion therapy began with behavioral research and is a highly effective form of learning. Although this technique is reduced due to chemical and electrical aversion. Now, visual imagery has been accepted and the person focuses on target behavior with visualization of unpleasant sensations.

Also Read: A Therapist Cannot Be Your Friend. Here’s Why!

Aversion Therapy Uses

The therapy is being used to treat problematic behaviors like:

  • Alcoholism
  • Smoking
  • Gambling
  • Bad habits
  • Addictions
  • Violence
  • Anger issues
  • Compulsive thought process
  • Self injurious behavior
  • Oral habits
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior

It acts as a self help strategy for any of the minor behavior issues. If the effectiveness of aversion therapy is concerned, the therapies depend on methods and conditions used and an individual’s willing behavior to return to the same habits.

However, it is also said that if a person is returned back without aversion, sensation or fear then there are high chances that he will reach back to the same behavior.

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Methods Used In Aversion Therapy

The theory of classical conditioning applies to the patient where negative conditioning is taken into consideration. The methods that are applied include:

  • Chemical induced nausea: If the person drinks alcohol, he starts feeling sick or nauseated. It lets him connect the two behaviors and he starts dispensing himself from repeated alcoholic behavior.
  • Mild electric shock
  • Negative images are displayed to the person so as when he consumes drugs or alcohol, he remembers the negative images right there.
  • Unpleasant smell or taste
  • Shaming so that the guilt doesn’t allow the person to take up a similar step again.

Controversies Relating To Aversion Therapy

Experts have claimed that such negative stimuli is no less than using a form of punishment and it raises ethical concerns. In fact, before American Psychiatric Association (APA) considered aversion therapy as ethically incorrect, it was also used to ‘treat’ homosexuality.

It is known that before 1973, homosexuality was considered as a mental health disorder and many homosexuals went to attain therapy due to shame associated with it. However, it was later realized that this shame doesn’t have anything to do with the sexual orientation of a human being.

Alternative To Aversion Therapy

Aversion therapy is recommended to not to be used alone by the experts, if they are being applied to an individual. Or else it’s counterconditioning treatment includes Exposure therapy that makes one do activities that they tend to fear.

Moreover, there are addiction support groups that help in rehabilitation of people with substance use disorders. Mostly, these therapies are combined with each other for best results.


When looking for aversion treatment for you or your loved ones, you can talk to your therapist and plan out the right treatment for you. Usually, it is combined with other therapies so clear all your doubts through a conversation. If you wish us to connect you with a therapist for addiction, drop us a message at info@calmsage.com.

More Interesting Reads:

A Therapist Cannot Be Your Friend. Here’s Why!

How Often Should you Talk to Your Therapist: Therapy Guide

Is My Therapy Working? 7 Signs If Your Therapy Is Beneficial

About The Author

Akanksha Soni
Akanksha Soni

Akanksha is an active lifestyle blogger and writer at Calmsage. She has learnt various lessons on happiness and methods to fight depression through 'Gurus' as well as own experiences. An ardent practitioner of Yoga and meditation, she keeps traveling, writes and interacts with people to feel alive.



    To bring yourself out of those addictive things or situations, therapy is necessary and it's all a part of the same tree that leads to the betterment.

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