Röper, G., Rachman, S., & Marks, I. (1975). Passive and participant modelling in exposure treatment of obsessive-compulsive neurotics. Behaviour research and therapy, 13(4), 271–279.
The vintage series continues. This article published in 1975 investigated the relative contributions of relaxation training, passive modeling vs. active modeling. 10 severe OCD patients were randomized to relaxation training vs. passive modeling. Furthermore, the passive modeling was then compared to active modeling. The passive modeling treatment involved the therapist performing actions which the patient normally avoided or could carry out only with some distress. The active modeling treatment was identical to the passive but with the addition of that the patients were from the second session onwards, requested to imitate the therapist’s behavior.
The results showed that passive modeling is better than relaxation training. Furthermore, active modeling was superior to passive modeling. The authors conclude “Passive modelling can produce some therapeutic changes but participant modelling is notably stronger.“
How is this relevant to clinicians?
It is important to clinicians to remember that both active as well as passive modeling works. The authors conclude “… both forms of modelling, passive and participant, necessarily involve exposure to the disturbing stimuli and situations. In the passive case, the patient observes: in the participant style he observes and engages. The relative values of various forms of exposure and of modelling will need to be determined.”.