Hans Eysenck on Behavior Therapy
by Hans Eysenck
Highly prolific and influential in the field of psychology, Hans Eysenck is well known for his bold, contentious theories on intelligence, personality, cancer and therapy. In this video, the “maverick psychologist” offers his insights about the practice of psychotherapy with his characteristically perspicacious flair.

Never one to shy away from provocation, Hans Eysenck is often regarded as an iconoclast in the field of psychotherapy. In 1952, he penned a very controversial paper in which he famously argued that psychoanalytic psychotherapy had not been shown to be more effective in facilitating recovery from “neurotic disorder” than no treatment at all. He faced further ire from psychoanalysts when he introduced behavior therapy at the Royal Psychomedical Association in 1959.
In this interview, Eysenck makes a compelling case for these groundbreaking ideas, and exemplifies his ability to be an intrepid agent of change against the dogmatic elements of the field.

In conversation with Dr. Philip Kendall, Eysenck shares his frank assessment on the modern developments in psychotherapy. Taking issue with integrative approaches to psychotherapy, Eysenck suggests that due to the theories’ divergent ideas on the origin of pathology, they are irreconcilable in practice. With specific regard to cognitive-behavioral therapy, Eysenck offers the paradoxical view that “cognitive behavior therapy, it's either an oxymoron-- they're different things, they don't really mean the same-- or it's a redundancy,” explaining that even early behaviorism took cognition into account. He adds that so far the combination of cognitive and behavioral therapy has not been shown to be superior to behavior therapy alone. Expressing concern that psychotherapists do not keep up with advances in the science of the field, he proposes changes in the way research is conducted and disseminated. Eysenck’s careful consideration and irreverent manner lead to appraisals of the field that are at once deeply thought provoking, and impossible to ignore.

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In Depth
Hans Eysenck immigrated to England in the 1930’s to escape Nazi Germany. Initially attracted to the field of physics, Eysenck went into psychology instead when the University of London would not transfer the necessary undergraduate coursework he had already completed in Germany. His devotion to the principles of science informed the way he approached his research throughout his career. His famous 1952 article disputing the effectiveness of psychotherapy has been cited countless times, including this post on the psychotherapy.net blog.

By watching this video, you will:
  • Understand the origins of learning theory and its application to therapy.
  • Appreciate the criticism of psychodynamic theory.
  • Gain insight into the way researchers approach the study of psychotherapy.

Length of video: 00:50:03

English subtitles available

Group ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-417-7

Group ISBN-13 #: 978-1-60124-417-8

Hans Eysenck was professor of psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London from 1955 to 1983. He was a major contributor to modern scientific personality theory, having created and developed a distinctive dimensional model of personality. Born in Germany, Eysenck immigrated to the UK when he was 18 because of his opposition to the Nazi party. When he was informed that his prerequisite courses for entry into a physics or chemistry program in the UK would not transfer from Germany, a frustrated Eysenck decided to instead pursue psychology.

A notably divisive figure in scientific psychology, Eysenck made waves in the field over several decades. A paper he wrote in 1952 on the effects of psychotherapy ignited his first major controversy. In it, he stated that two-thirds of therapy patients improved significantly or recovered within two years, regardless of whether or not they received psychotherapy. But perhaps the most influential controversy of Eysenck’s career was the argument made in his book, Race, Intelligence and Education, that racial differences in intelligence could be partially attributed to genetic factors. Although he was a controversial figure, Eysenck’s expansive research had a major influence on psychology. Beyond his work in personality and intelligence, Eysenck was a key figure in the establishment of empirically researched approaches to psychotherapy.
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